Two school records, two conference championships and a pair of top-10 finishes at the 2015 NCAA Championships were all part of an outstanding freshman season for distance ace Stephanie Sin of the UC San Diego swimming and diving team. Sin's school marks came in the 1000 (10:03.22) and 1650 (16:55.65) freestyle, where she clipped nearly five and two seconds, respectively, off previous standards. "Steph Sin is a coach's dream," says UCSD head coach Corrie Falcon. "She works hard and smiles every day. She is a leader amongst the distance group, and her early-season times prove she is back and ready to have a great year." The Chatsworth native who prepped at Ivy Academia recently shared her thoughts on the keys to success in distance freestyle, her coach, and what she's hoping to achieve in 2015-16.
Q: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
SIN: I'm not sure, honestly. I think that I am pretty much an open book and people could have a sense of who I am from the start, quiet and soft-spoken. I guess that people would be surprised that I could actually be very loud once you get to know me and spend a lot of time around me.
Q: What do you consider the keys to being a successful distance swimmer?
SIN: In my opinion, the key to being a successful distance swimmer is endurance. Although every swimmer needs endurance, distance swimmers especially need a lot of it to get them through the long events. Another key is to be mentally strong. The mile (1650) is a very long race, and it can be very painful. Knowing that you have done so much more yardage during practice and put in hours of training, helps me stay focused and not freak out during a race.
Q: How would you describe your personality? Do you think your personality fits your events?
SIN: I would say that I am very shy and quiet, especially if I have never met you before. I am not very outgoing and it takes me a while to open up, but once I do get to know you I can be very loud and outgoing. I never really thought about my personality matching the events I swim, but I do see how it fits. Being a distance swimmer, you have to be able to keep a consistent pace throughout the race. I think that my personality matches the events I swim because you don't have to go out fast. With distance events, you can build throughout the race.
Q: How much yardage do you put in during a given workout? In an average week? What makes all that work worthwhile?
SIN: Swimming with (assistant coach) Marko (Djordjevic), you never know what is coming for practice. Usually, we do so much yardage that I can't even keep track of how much we have done. If I had to guess, I would say that in a day we do about 10000-14000 yards for doubles (two-practice days), and about 45000 yards in a week. All of the training and work we put in is always worthwhile because of the people on our team. We have so many different personalities and characters that make this team so unique. Although we have different personalities, we all get along so well. We encourage each other throughout tough sets, and we are always there to help one another out. Knowing that I am part of such a supportive team makes me want to spend time with each and every one even more. The team is what makes all the hard work worthwhile.
Q: In a typical race, are you competing more against other swimmers, or the clock?
SIN: There are definitely plenty of other strong athletes who I compete against throughout all of our meets, including all of my teammates. I wouldn't say that I am competing against either-or, because we are constantly going against both, the clock and other swimmers. Being a swimmer, you are always on the clock. You have to make sure you wake up early for morning practice at 5 a.m., you are always looking at the clock for practice, you are given times to hit for pace, and so much more. Time, to every millisecond, is always a factor with swimming.
Q: Are you aware of where all of your opposing swimmers are? Do you react to what they are doing, or try to stick to your pre-race strategy?
SIN: I am usually aware of the opposing swimmers. I try not to focus on them too much and stick with the race plan because that is what I practice on a daily basis. Focusing too much on the opposing swimmers tends to make me freak out, so I try my best to stick to what the coaches and I plan on doing.
Q: In your events, it's not unusual to see a group of coaches along the side of the pool deck yelling, whistling and gesturing wildly in the name of helping their swimmer go faster. Are you cognizant of all this when you're racing? Do you actually see or hear your own coaches? Does it provide any motivation?
SIN: Definitely. Seeing all of my teammates and coaches along the side of the pool makes swimming the mile or any event much better. It's nice to see everybody standing on the side cheering you on. While you're swimming, it is hard to hear everything that people are saying outside of the pool, but something you can't miss is Marko's (Djordjevic) whistle. You can hear his whistle from a mile away. Even if I could not hear anyone, seeing everyone on the deck cheering me on motivates me to go much faster. I see it as my teammates believing and supporting me, which boosts my confidence to swim faster.
Q: What impact has Coach Corrie Falcon had on your swimming career?
SIN: Corrie has impacted my swimming here at UCSD greatly. Without her help and support, I would not even be here. She has always been there and checks in with me throughout the year. Although she is not the coach who I always train with, I know that I can always go to her for any help.
Q: What scares you in the pool? Outside the pool?
SIN: I'm not sure what scares me in the pool. The only thing I could think of would be the upcoming set. Training can be very intense at times, and honestly, I am sometimes scared about what the next set is. There are plenty of things that scare me outside of the pool. I have many phobias, including the fear of spiders and clowns.
Q: What are two things you've done since coming to UCSD that you had never done before?
SIN: Since coming to UCSD, I have had many new experiences. One would be paddleboarding. I would love to learn how to surf as well, but thought that, with my very poor coordination, paddleboarding would be a better choice. The second thing that I hadn't done before coming to UCSD is living on my own and paying rent. As much fun as paying rent sounds, living off-campus with my closest friends (Holly Fosmire, Morgan King and Annie Hocking) is probably the most fun I have had.
Q: How has last year's success impacted you? Did it change the way you look at swimming?
SIN: Last year was a pretty successful year for me. Being a freshman and not really knowing everything that was going on, I still managed to have a lot of really great swims. Coming into this year, I did have a lot of pressure, especially since now the coaches and my teammates knew what I was capable of doing, and what they could expect. I look at swimming fairly similarly as before, but now I also have expectations for myself. I would say that the only thing that has changed are my goals, and what I would expect to give to the team and myself.
Q: Were either of your parents swimmers? What role have they played in your swimming career?
SIN: My parents were not swimmers, but they did have a big impact on my swimming career. I learned to swim at about three years old with my sister (Jennifer) because my parents wanted to make sure we knew how to swim so we would not drown. We learned to swim at the Y (YMCA), and soon joined a club team near my hometown. Without my parents' support, I probably would not be swimming. They put in a lot of work and time to allow me to do what I enjoy, and if it wasn't for them, I would not be so successful.
Q: Who's your favorite swimmer? Who is a person outside of swimming (and sports) that you admire?
SIN: There are so many great swimmers who are very talented. It's difficult to choose one swimmer, but the men’s 4x100 relay during the Beijing 2008 Olympics (Michael Phelps, Garrett Weber-Gale, Cullen Jones and Jason Lezak) would have to be my favorites. They had an amazing race, and had so much enthusiasm and teamwork throughout. It was such an intense race with a great finish and outcome.
The persons I admire outside of swimming would have to be my parents, for sure. Without their support and love, I don't think that anything that I have done would be possible. They have always been there for me, and I always look up to them.
Q: How much time per day do you spend on social media? What's your favorite social media platform?
SIN: I try really hard not to spend too much time on social media, but I would say, on average, that I am on some sort of social media at least five to six times per day. My favorite social media would be Snapchat or Instagram. I am most often on Snapchat and Instagram because I enjoy looking at pictures and taking pictures. I find it very interesting how we are able to express how we feel, or look at things in a different perspective, through pictures.
Q: You're a recently-declared public health major. What led you to make that decision?
SIN: I've always been thinking about public health, but never declared until recently because I was not very sure about what I would do in that major. I have always wanted to help people and society as a whole, and studying in a field that would prepare me to be able to do that, really caught my eye.
Q: For you personally, what would make the 2015-16 season a success?
SIN: For me personally, knowing that I am more confident and enjoying every moment with the team, would be considered a success. I would like to go to the NCAA Championships again or break the record for the 1000, but most importantly I just want to enjoy the little things. Through my teammates and everyone that I train with, I have learned that it is not all about going a best time or getting first in a race; it is about having fun and knowing that you have tried as hard as you can.
Previous Triton Q&A Features
Beth Mounier (Women's Basketball) November 17, 2015
Nick Alexander (Men's Water Polo) October 21, 2015
Myles Cooper (Strength & Conditioning) October 6, 2015
Jordyn McNutt (Women's Soccer) September 8, 2015
Cameron McElfresh (Men's Soccer) September 1, 2015
Daniel Franz (Men's Cross Country) August 17, 2015
Meagan Wright (Women's Volleyball) August 10, 2015
Chase Cockerill (Men's Water Polo) August 3, 2015
Kelcie Brodsky (Women's Soccer) July 27, 2015
Kuba Waligorski (Men's Soccer) July 20, 2015
Nate Garcia (Cross Country) July 13, 2015
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