Q&A With Senior Swimmer Dan Perdew
Already one of the most decorated swimmers in the UC San Diego annals, senior Dan Perdew will be looking to add to his list of accolades at next week's 2010 NCAA Division II Swimming & Diving Championships in Canton, OH. Perdew is the two-time defending national champion in the 100 freestyle and last spring clocked 43.30 to set a new NCAA D-II mark in the event. As a sophomore in 2008, he also won the NCAA 50 freestyle. "Dan's greatest strength is his single-mindedness that he is the best out there and everyone else is going to fall in line behind him," says UCSD Head Coach Scott McGihon. "On face, his credentials obviously make him one of the best swimmers in the history of the program because there are only a select few who have won multiple national championships. But he's probably done more to maximize his abilities than any other swimmer we've had." Perdew will be one of 28 Triton student-athletes in Canton. On the eve of departure for the big meet, the La Verne native spent time talking about his career, individual and team possibilities at the NCAA Championships, and what the future holds.
Q: It's been a long, successful run for you at UCSD -- has it set in that the end is near? What kind of thoughts do you have on that topic?
PERDEW: As it is with every season, I can feel the end nearing. You wait a full year for NCAA's and there is so much build up going into this meet that you can't help but feel the end of the season coming. I don't think it has set in yet that not only is this the end of the season, but this will be the end of my collegiate swimming career.
I got glimpses of this during the senior recognition at our last home dual meet and at our conference meet, but there was always something to look forward to after those meets. Even going into NCAA's the last three years I knew there was something to look forward to afterwards. It's weird knowing that this is it for me. I don't think it will truly set in until all is said and done at NCAA's and I don't have to wake up at 5:00 a.m. for practice on the first day of spring quarter.
Q: You have a college career full of accomplishments. Is there one that stands out? Was there a turning point somewhere in there?
PERDEW: I can't say there is one accomplishment that really stands out to me. Winning events at nationals and setting records are great, but the most fun I have had with swimming is at our conference meet. I was lucky enough to be part of a team that won conference three out of the four years I was here. Jumping in the pool after winning conference on the men's and women's sides is something I will never forget. There is no greater feeling than being a part of a team that stuck together though a long and grueling season, especially one like this (i.e. not having a home pool for two months and driving all over San Diego to swim in the mornings) and coming out on top. To me, those are the most memorable accomplishments.
The turning point came before I actually started swimming here. Most people don't know that I didn't swim my freshman year at UCSD. So I guess the turning point came during spring quarter my freshman year when I decided to get back into swimming.
Q: You achieved a lot fairly early. What's it like being the "old man" on the team now?
PERDEW: It's definitely a big change going from being one of the young guys looking up to the older leaders to actually being one of those leaders. The team is so young that often, being a fifth year myself, they make me feel older than I really am. That said, what is surprising is how little guidance these student-athletes really need. They all have the right attitude about swimming and show more maturity than their years in the pool. I have found myself enjoying watching some of the younger guys on the team grow as athletes and reach goals they set for themselves.
Q: The 2010 NCAA Division II Championships are just days away. For you, what will make this meet a fitting climax to your career?
PERDEW: To make a fitting end to my career I would love to walk away with national records in the 50 and 100 free. Those are the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the season and I would definitely like to accomplish them. Also, if a team national title isn't in the cards for us, I would really like to win a relay (or two). Having said that, if that doesn't happen, all will not be lost. In the end I will not measure my career by records and national championships, but by how much I have put into this sport and how much I have enjoyed swimming. I have dedicated my life to swimming for the past four years and everything else I have done has been centered around swimming. If NCAA's don't go as planned this year, I will no doubt be unhappy, but I will not let one meet define my career.
Q: Go through the individual races you'll be swimming at this year's Championship and share your expectations and objectives in each.
PERDEW: The first race I will be swimming is the 50 free. This is definitely the most nerve-racking event. One mistake can completely take you out of the race. There are basically three components to this race: start, turn, and finish. If any one of those is off, you're done. The 50 is a huge mental game and that's why I like it. I always believe myself to be mentally tougher than my competition and that definitely gives me confidence. As I said before, my goal is a national record but I would settle for a win.
The next race I will swim is the 100 butterfly. Swimming this event individually really came about from our team's need for a flyer in the relays a couple years ago. That led me to swim it individually. Last year I had a poor showing in finals at NCAA's, so this year I want to come back strong. The last individual event I will swim is the 100 free. Not only do I expect to win, but I expect to better the national record I set last year.
Q: How important is winning a third consecutive NCAA 100 freestyle title?
PERDEW: The number of times I have won an event really doesn't matter to me. I expect to do well in whatever I swim, whether I have been swimming that event for years or it's the first time I have ever swam it. Although I'm sure there is a target on my back, I don't really feel any pressure to repeat. I'm just looking forward to swimming a good race and seeing my hard work pay off.
Q: Which of the two freestyle sprint events do you consider your favorite and why?
PERDEW: It used to be that the 50 was my favorite event, but that has changed as I have swam the 100 more. I have come to appreciate the subtleties of the 100 and the strategy needed to be a good 100 swimmer. In the 50 free everyone swims it the same, all out the whole way. There's not a lot of strategy involved and not a whole lot of thinking.
That is not so with the 100. Although it may appear everyone swims the 100 the same way, when you examine a race closely, it's not true. Everyone who swims the 100 (or everyone who swims the 100 successfully, rather) swims it to their abilities. Even sprinters vary according to how fast they need to take it out in the first 50 and how much they need to have in reserve to finish the race. It is figuring out the subtle aspects of this race and the strategy involved that lead me to enjoying the 100 the most.
Q: Talk about the UCSD men's team's possibilities in the various relays, the team's "history" in those events and how important they are in terms of team success.
PERDEW: As our coach always says, relays are key to a team's success at nationals. Having good individual swimmers helps, but relays are what makes a team at nationals. Relays are also the reason why the men's team has not placed as highly as it should have the last two years. Due to some untimely disqualifications we (the men) have finished seventh two years in a row. That is going to change this year. We should have strong showings from all of our relays, especially the 200 and 400 frees.
Q: The American record in the short course 50 yard freestyle is just about a second faster than your best time. What creates that difference? Do you feel you have the capability to close that gap?
PERDEW: Thanks in part to our assistant coach Matt Macedo, I have had the opportunity to meet and swim against Olympic gold medalist Nathan Adrian. After meeting him, I immediately realized why there is the almost full second gap between my best time and his American record. If we were both on a basketball team Nathan would be a power forward and I would be a point guard. Not only does he have a size advantage, but also way more experience swimming.
Most swimmers at his level have been swimming their whole lives, whereas I first touched the pool in high school. I actually learned a lot just from watching him swim. With the right training situation and some more experience, I think I could close that gap considerably. I'm not saying I would set a new American record, but definitely close the gap.
Q: A hot topic in the swimming world over the last several years has been the high tech suits that have laid waste to most of the sport's records. They were legal at last year's NCAA's but new rules have been adopted for 2010. Without the "speed suits," do you think you'll be able to replicate the times you swam last year in Houston?
PERDEW: Replicate the times from Houston? No. Beat them? Absolutely. You're not going to find a swimmer in the country who will sit there and say, "Yeah, I plan on going slower this year" (or, I should say I would hope no swimmer would say that).
Personally, I was not a fan of the suits, but you have to go with the "best" suit at the time. When the suits got banned there was no part of me that felt like I couldn't have done what I did last year without them. I am swimming the best I have ever swam right now regardless of what suit I have worn in the past and I do not expect that to change at nationals.
Q: Do you feel you (or other swimmers) have to swim your races differently without the "speed suits?"
PERDEW: I'm sure there are some swimmers who will be greatly affected without the suits. I am not one of those swimmers, nor is anyone on our team. A huge part of swimming is the mental aspect and this is just another mental hurdle. I definitely have gone into this year with a bit of a chip on my shoulder because of the suits. I would be lying if I said I wasn't out to prove what I did last year was not a result of the suit. I'm just glad that after this year no one will be able to look back at my career and place an asterisk next to anything I did because of the suit.
Q: Will the 2010 NCAA Championships be your final competitive meet? Do you ever see yourself being able to simply quit cold turkey?
PERDEW: I'm not Brett Favre. I'm not going to sit here and say this is going to be my last competitive meet. I am extremely active and competitive, so I don't really see myself quitting right after nationals. I still feel there's a lot more I can do with swimming after college if I want to go down that road.
Q: You've had the opportunity to train and compete with another accomplished sprinter, Todd Langland, during your UCSD career. Is there a rivalry between the two of you and how has his presence helped your swimming?
PERDEW: I can't say enough good things about having Todd as a training partner for the last four years. Having another sprinter as good as he is to practice with 12 months out of the year has been a tremendous benefit to me. He puts the work in day in and day out and training with him has definitely allowed me to be in the position I am today. I wouldn't say there is a rivalry, but something develops between two people when they race head to head everyday for four years straight. As far as nationals goes, after training with Todd for four years and seeing how hard he works, he is the only person I would be OK with losing to.
Q: In your opinion, what have been the most important factors in your development as a premier swimmer?
PERDEW: Swimming is really a simple sport and is summed up in this quote: "The will to win pales in comparison to the will to prepare." A lot of swimmers want to succeed and do well, but the best swimmers put themselves in a position to succeed long before they come to a big meet. I feel the same goes for myself. There is no offseason for swimming, it is a year-round sport. Those who train year-round and put in the right effort every day are the most successful. It is no different for me. Of course, being competitive almost to a fault doesn't hurt either.
Q: What three words best describe you in the pool? Out of the pool?
PERDEW: In the pool -- intense, hard-working, dedicated. Out of the pool -- jovial, impulsive, active.
Q: If there were no limits, no restrictions and no repercussions, what's something you would really like to do?
PERDEW: I want to challenge Adam Richman from Man Vs. Food to an eating challenge.
Q: Can you share one thing about yourself that's totally out of character with the person people know?
PERDEW: I really like cooking shows or any shows about food. Tyler's Ultimate, Man Vs. Food, Cake Boss, for whatever reason I love them all. Maybe it's because I'm a terrible cook, who knows.
Q: You're a Management Science and Psychology major at UCSD. What's the long term game plan?
PERDEW: That is one question I do not have the answer to. I'm just going to take life as it comes and enjoy whatever I decide to do.
Q: When it's all over, what would you like your legacy to be at UCSD?
PERDEW: When I look back on my years swimming at UCSD, I want to leave knowing that the program is in a better position than when I came in. I want to see my team develop into a perennial national championship contender and know that in some way I was part of the journey that lead the team to be in that position.
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