One of the most prolific performers in UC San Diego history will be competing as a Triton for the last time at the 2014 NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships, March 12-15 in Geneva, Ohio. Senior Nick Korth’s illustrious list of achievements at UCSD is long and figures to grow longer days from now in Ohio. The 2011 NCAA champion in the 200 breaststroke and school record-holder in both the 100 (53.08) and 200 (1:54.61) breaststroke, as well as two relays, Korth has six total top-five NCAA finishes to his credit and is top five all-time at UCSD in three other individual events. He has also clearly won the appreciation of his Triton mentors. “In some ways, Nick is like an extension of the coaching staff in the water,” says co-head coach Corrie Falcon. “He’s intense, focused, always listening and really helps coach our other swimmers. He’s one of the top breaststrokers in the country, regardless the level, and I believe he’s more prepared than ever for his final NCAA Championships. I’m more confident than ever that he’s ready to have a huge meet.” With nationals looming ever closer, the 6-foot-1 Santa Clarita native took time to reflect on his career, talk about his sport and discuss what will make these final weeks a success.
Q: Your work ethic has been fairly well-documented over the years. What has motivated you to maintain the type of commitment and discipline needed to be a national championship caliber swimmer?
KORTH: I have always been a competitor at heart and after having swim taken away from me at UC Irvine (where the program was eliminated), I felt the need to give the UCSD coaches the best of my abilities as a means to thank them for giving me another opportunity at being a college athlete. I didn’t want to waste this chance and I felt that I needed to prove to myself that while I may compete at a Division II school, I can still compete with any competitive field.
Q: When you won the NCAA Division II 200 breaststroke title as a freshman at UC San Diego, was that a surprise? What do you remember from that race in San Antonio?
KORTH: Winning the 200 breast as a freshman was quite a shock to me. I couldn’t see the scoreboard so I actually didn’t know the outcome until one of my friends ran up to me. As far as the race goes, I remember being slightly behind at one point, but I knew that I had to stick to my race routine. The last 50 yards were pretty painful, but all I thought about were my friends cheering for me on the side of the pool and my training partners who pushed me throughout the season.
Q: Although you’ve been right in the mix the last two years, you haven’t been able to duplicate that win. Has that been frustrating, particularly last year’s .04 second loss to Eetu Karvonen of Grand Canyon in Birmingham?
KORTH: It has been frustrating in a few aspects, but I just look at it as another challenge. Last year’s race was pretty special for me. Despite the fact that I was behind the whole race, I stuck with my race strategy and dropped about 2.5 seconds (from my lifetime best). I would have liked the outcome to be a little different, but I swam to the best of my abilities and “swam” away with one of the fastest times in the nation. Hopefully this year I’ll be the first one to the last wall in my races.
Q: In a race that close between top caliber swimmers, what does it ultimately come down to?
KORTH: Everyone plays to their own strengths, but at the end of the day it comes down to who is toughest mentally. I’m not going to give anyone a win, but they will have to fight me to the end for it.
Q: This year, at the upcoming NCAA Championships in Geneva,OH, you’re obviously going to be competing in both the 100 and 200 breaststroke events, as well as several relays, but might we see you in the 50 freestyle instead of the 200 individual medley that has typically served as a third individual race for you? What would your preference be and why? How is that decision made?
KORTH: I have talked it over with the coaches and we have decided that the 50 freestyle will be better for me at this year’s nationals. I would prefer the 50 free since it is a shorter race. It’ll be less taxing than swimming the 200 individual medley twice, so the coaches and I have considered the relays and other swims and decided that the 50 free will most likely be the best option.
Q: You and Karvonen seemed to have a somewhat friendly rivalry? Is there any type of spoken or unspoken camaraderie between the top level swimmers at a meet like the NCAAs?
KORTH: I have a tremendous respect for any of the competitors at NCAAs. It takes a lot of work to get there. I also know that those great competitors are part of the reason that I am able to swim to the best of my abilities, so not only is it a courtesy and camaraderie thing, it’s my way of saying thank you for pushing me.
Q: At a championship meet such as the NCAAs, with multiple events, prelims and finals each day, how taxing is it physically and mentally? Talk about what you try to do to rest, recover and prepare for your various races?
KORTH: It is pretty taxing on the body and mind. Asking an individual to get up on the blocks and swim a best time every race is mentally and physically straining, especially on the last day of the meet. As for what I do to prepare while at the meet, I like to lay down as often as possible, get adequate sleep and naps throughout the day, eat enough food while staying hydrated, stay focused and talk my strategy over with the coaches, stretch and foam roll, and do the race routine that I have done all year long.
Q: Talk about the things you do better in-and-out of the pool now, as compared to your first year at UCSD. What’s one thing you know now that you wish you’d known back then?
KORTH: My diet is probably the best improvement, I ate Burger King at Price Center during the week and a lot of processed food during my first year. I also stretch and foam roll quite a bit more than I did in past years. I wish my diet was better as well as the swim technique that I know now.
Q: Physically and technically, what makes you a successful breaststroker?
KORTH: Physically, I am of a decent height and a somewhat strong individual. Technically, I try to be perfect with my stroke, so both of those combined make me the breaststroker that I am today.
Q: The past two years, you’ve been one of the team’s co-captains. How seriously do you take that role and what do you try to impart to your teammates from a leadership perspective?
KORTH: A few friends may say that I take that job too seriously, but I look at it as a mentoring and leadership role. Swim has given me so much fun and opportunity. I would just like to impart the fun aspect and appreciation for the sport before I leave.
Q: Last summer, you had the opportunity to compete at the U.S. World Championship Trials in Indianapolis, as well as the U.S. Open in Irvine. What is it like going up against the top swimmers in the country? Were you pleased with your performance there and what will be your lasting memory of those events?
KORTH: It was a great experience competing in a field with Olympians and the fastest swimmers in the United States. Seeing and being part of those meets with all of the expert level athletes gives me something to strive for whenever I question my career. As for my performance, I was very happy with the 50 and 200 meter breast, the 100 not so much. As for memories, I honestly can’t remember many details, but knowing that I made it there, that I can say I competed at that level, that gives me a sense of great satisfaction.
Q: When did you get started swimming competitively and what was your impetus? What kept you going? How long can you see yourself “staying in the game?”
KORTH: I started swimming competitively in high school during my sophomore year as a means to get better for the high school season. I didn’t like losing and the majority of my friends all swam, so I got to develop my training while hanging out with my friends, it was just a giant party. As for “staying in the game”, it is a month to month thing. I would like to keep competing, but the next available step for me would be the national team and then possibly the Olympic team, but both consist of the top six swimmers in a particular event, so it is extremely competitive.
Q: Who do you consider the greatest swimmer of all-time?
KORTH: I really don’t have a greatest swimmer, but if there was one, Michael Phelps would have to be the guy. Winning eight gold in Beijing was unprecedented and he has been so successful over his career. The longevity of his career is another feat, potentially being 16 years of Olympics if he competes in Rio.
Q: When your swimming career ultimately comes to an end, what will you miss the most? Least?
KORTH: I will miss being a part of a team and everything that it stands for. We all strive together to swim well, but we come together as a family; that aspect is what I will miss most. The least favorite part will probably be the long season, it takes up almost seven months. Those seven months mean a lot of opportunities given up and a lot of time lost that could have been spent on other activities. Having some time to do what I want will be nice.
Q: Could you see yourself as a coach?
KORTH: Yes, I could see myself as a coach. Seeing the look upon those swimmers faces when they drop time or when they do something that makes them ecstatic is something many professionals do not get to see often. That would be the perfect job, as long as I could make ends meet and live comfortably.
Q: What are your three-or-four favorite activities that are non-swimming related?
KORTH: This is an easy one; sleep, eat, relax with friends, and experience new things. All of them have very little exercise involved, are things you can do anywhere at any time, and are part of what “living” means to me.
Q: What is the toughest class you’ve taken at UCSD? Most interesting class?
KORTH: Toughest class is a tie between a few upper division econ classes and the math 20 series. If it weren’t for the 20 series, I would probably have a different major, but math is not my forte.
As far as most interesting, I would have to say Neil Driscoll's SIO Water class. I learned quite a bit about the ocean and water cycle as well as how fragile our ecosystems are when tehnatural balance is upset and not maintained. It was eye-opening to see just how much water I use on a daily basis and how wasteful humans are with this resource.
Q: You’re an economics major. What are your plans, hopes as far as a post-graduate career?
KORTH: I have a couple potential paths set before me. I could travel different parts of the world, continue training for the next Olympic Trials in 2016, or I could find a job. All three are decent plans at this point in time, but I am still undecided as to what I would like to do.
Q: The collegiate chapter of your swimming career comes to a close in two weeks at the NCAA Championships in Geneva, Ohio. What would have to happen to make you feel completely satisfied when you get on the plane to head back to San Diego?
KORTH: To walk away completely satisfied I would have to achieve the time goals that I set for myself. I can only control what I do in the pool, not what anyone else does. Accompanied with those times, I would like to finish the meet with two individual national titles (both breaststroke events), a top eight finish in the 50 freestyle, and a first place finish in the men’s 200 freestyle relay. None of this will be easy, but anything worthwhile shouldn’t be easy.
Previous Triton Q&A Features
Megan Perry (Women's Basketball) January 13, 2014
Sandy Hon (Women's Swimming) December 30, 2013
Drew Dyer (Men's Basketball) November 26, 2013
Kameron Cooper (Women's Volleyball) October 28, 2013
Rachel Leslie (Women's Soccer) October 9, 2013
Marie Diaz (Women's Cross Country/Track & Field) October 1, 2013
Joe Dietrich (Men's Water Polo) September 2, 2013
Josh Cohen (Men's Soccer) August 23, 2013
Sara McCutchan (Women's Volleyball) August 9, 2013
Kellen Levy (Men's Cross Country/Track & Field) July 26, 2013
Izzy Pozurama (Women's Soccer) July 8, 2013
Colin Truex (Women's Crew Head Coach) June 28, 2013