Q&A with Junior Swimmer Matt Herman


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Junior swimmer Matt Herman captured two of UCSD's four individual national championships last week in San Antonio, Texas.
Junior swimmer Matt Herman captured two of UCSD's four individual national championships last week in San Antonio, Texas.
Courtesy: Ken Grosse/UCSD Athletics

In the first event of last week’s NCAA Division II Swimming & Diving Championships at San Antonio, TX, UC San Diego junior Matt Herman, in the words of Head Coach Scott McGihon, turned in a performance that “galvanized” the Tritons and kick-started the team towards its best-ever combined finish at the national meet. The 5-foot-9 UC Davis transfer went wire-to-wire that night to win the 1,000 freestyle in school record time of 9:02.67. After finishing fifth in the 500 freestyle two nights later, he closed out the meet by winning a second national title with another school record in the 1,650 freestyle (15:12.78) as the UCSD men placed second in the team standings. “The great thing about Matt’s events is that if you put in a lot of hard work, you’re going to have success—and he definitely puts in the work” said McGihon. “He’s probably the most dedicated member of our team—very driven.” In the aftermath of the NCAA meet, the San Anselmo native took time to look back on the past week and what got him there.

Q-Was last week in San Antonio the greatest performance of your swimming career?

HERMAN— Absolutely.  It has been a few years since I have dropped the kind of time in my events that I did in San Antonio.  Not only that, but to walk away with a second place team finish was a great feeling. 

Q—Were there any question marks, fears or nervousness when you arrived in Texas?

 HERMAN— I think at every meet a swimmer will arrive with doubts and nervousness in their mind.  “Did I put in all the work? Did I get enough rest? Did I miss my taper?” When those doubts and fears come up, you have to channel them into fast swimming.  Before and during every race I thought about the seven months of training I had put in and that is what helped me in all three of my races.

Q-Which win meant more to you, the 1,000 freestyle or 1,650?

HERMAN— The feeling I had after the 1,000 was indescribable.  The win after the 1,000 was really special not only because it was my first National Championship, but also because after that race I knew all the hard work my teammates, coaches and I had put in during the season had paid off and we were going to have an incredible meet.

Q-When did you feel you had the 1,000 freestyle won?

HERMAN— It wasn’t until the final 50 of the race that I knew I had it.  At the 700 yard mark I thought I was going to be passed, but I saw all of my teammates on the side of the pool jumping up and down and knew I could find another gear and get the win.  The 1,000 was definitely a team win.  My teammates and coaches played a big role in it.

Q—Is there a different sense of accomplishment having won two national championships as opposed to just one?

HERMAN— In every race you swim, you want to get out of the water knowing you left everything you had in the water.  I think having two wins under my belt definitely helps confirm that I put everything I had into those two races. 

Q—What was going through your mind as you made the last turn for home in the 1,650?

HERMAN— When I heard the bell going into the last 50 of a 66 lap race, I was excited that it was almost over.  Swimming that last 50 with no one around me was a great feeling and I knew I was going to get my second National Championship. 

Q—The second place team finish was UCSD’s best in 11 years at the Division II level. How did it feel to be part of that accomplishment?

HERMAN— As a team we had set a goal to be top three at Nationals in the beginning of the year, so to accomplish that was definitely the highlight of my NCAA experience.  When you set a goal as a team and achieve that goal, it is way more significant than any individual championship.  Every member of the team, whether they were at Nationals or not, played a big part in the second place finish.  To be on this team and hoist the trophy at the end of the meet was a great feeling. 

Q—Between the men and women, UCSD swimmers broke 11 school records at the NCAA meet. Which of your teammates’ performances impressed you the most? Why?

HERMAN— There were a lot of great swims at the meet, but I have to say that Blake Langland’s relay swims were very inspiring.  It is uncanny how he never gives up when he anchors the relays and out-touches swimmers whom were a body length ahead before he dove in.  Also, Alex Henley and Nick Korth’s win’s were very fun to watch.  

Q—How would you describe the way the UCSD coaching staff works together and what do you feel are the strengths of each coach?

HERMAN— We definitely have the best coaching staff in the entire country.  Be it in Division I, II, or III, you won’t find a more passionate or successful group of coaches in any sport.  Each coach adds their own element to our team.  Scott is very organized and in my mind is a genius distance freestyle coach.  He is really great at knowing what sets to give me and how to push me into my potential. 

Corrie (Falcon) is a great motivator, and comes up with some challenging sets (she was one of the best individual medley swimmers in the United States when she swam!).  Matt (Macedo) is very inventive with his practices and his passion for the sport is uncontested (he was one of the best sprint freestylers in the country!). It is great to have Tyler Painter as a part of our coaching staff as well.  He was one of the greatest distance swimmers in the world when he swam competitively, and to get advice from him is very inspiring. 

Even at 6 a.m., I am excited to swim for our four coaches because I know they are giving the team 100% and it makes me want to reciprocate that every way I know how. Without these coaches, I know there would not be second and third place team trophies on display in RIMAC right now and I would not have two individual National Championship finishes. 

Q—The distance group likely has the toughest training regimen of any unit on a swim team. Are there times during the season when it’s tough to motivate yourself? What do you do to get through those times?

HERMAN— There are definitely times during the season where both physically and mentally it is tough to perform. When that happens I look to my teammates and coaches to bring me back to a level of training that will allow me to reach my potential.  In swimming we train seven months for one competition, so most of the sport is about the journey getting to that competition and you have to look at those bad days as just part of the journey.

Q—Were you surprised to see some 20 UCSD swimming alumni in the stands in San Antonio?

HERMAN— Definitely. Having alumni travel all the way to San Antonio to watch us swim was very inspiring.  Many of the alumni haven’t missed a Nationals since they attended UCSD and I think it shows the tight relationships and bonds this team develops while you’re swimming on it. 

Q—What type of thoughts are typically going through your head during the 66 laps of the 1,650?

HERMAN— In the beginning of the race I usually think, “Wow, I feel pretty good…I can hold this pace for ever!” Then, about the middle of the race I usually get a Springsteen song in my head to keep me going. And by the end thoughts come up like, “I wish I was a sprinter.” And, “I can’t wait to hear that bell.”

Q—If you had to swim all of the other events in a standard meet, which would be your worst?

HERMAN— Either the 50 free, or one of the breaststroke races.  Simply because I can’t sprint or do breaststroke. 

Q—Now that the long season is concluded, how will you spend your free time?

HERMAN— I’ll probably take two weeks out of the water and this first week to eat a lot of junk food and be lazy.  After the college season is over we go right into long-course swimming and you have to be in shape for that, so the break, although nice, is relatively short-lived. 

Q-With two individual national championships in your possession, what type of goals do you anticipate setting for yourself in 2012?

HERMAN— As a team, I would like hold up a first place trophy at the end of the meet next year.  Also, I want to defend my two titles and look for a third in the 500 free. 

Q—Looking back, aside from your two wins, what is the one thing you will remember most from the 2011 NCAA Championships?

HERMAN— Getting out of the water after the 1,000 freestyle—hugging Scott and shouting, “We did it!”

Previous Q & A Articles

Hanalei Crowell (Women's Water Polo) March 5, 2011

Camille Gaito (Softball) February 23, 2011

Tim Shibuya (Baseball) February 8, 2011

Carl Eberts (Men's Volleyball) January 31, 2011

Neda Nguyen (Women's Swimming & Diving) January 24, 2011

Amy Bianchini (Fencing) January 14, 2011

Lauren Freidenberg (Women's Basketball) January 3, 2011

Christian Hatch (Men's Basketball) December 24, 2010

Blake Langland (Men's Swimming & Diving) November 27, 2010

Sarah McTigue (Women's Soccer) November 8, 2010

Brandon Yee (Men's Soccer) October 11, 2010

Bryce Madsen (Men's Water Polo) September 23, 2010

Annette Ilg (Women's Soccer) September 9, 2010

Ricci Luyties (Women's Volleyball Head Coach) August 24, 2010

Kevin Messey (Head Athletics Trainer) July 7, 2010

Dan O'Brien (Baseball Head Coach) June 18, 2010

Christine Merrill (Women's Track & Field) June 14, 2010

Vance Albitz (Baseball) May 11, 2010

Erik Elliott (Men's Tennis) May 3, 2010

Kelly Fogarty (Women's Track & Field) April 23, 2010

Liz LaPlante (Women's Tennis Head Coach) April 15, 2010

Kirby St. John (Baseball) March 24, 2010

Dan Perdew (Men's Swimming) February 28, 2010

Calvin Ross (Men's Volleyball) February 20, 2010

Nicole Saari (Softball) February 4, 2010

Brad Kreutzkamp (Women's Water Polo Head Coach) January 18, 2010

Tyler Acevedo (Men's Basketball) January 4, 2010

Dr. Cliff Kubiak (UCSD's Faculty Athletic Rep) December 18, 2009

Chelsea Carlisle (Women's Basketball) December 9, 2009

Carianne Cunningham (Women's Swimming) November 23, 2009

Elena Inouye (Cross Country) November 6, 2009

David Morton (Men's Water Polo) October 28, 2009

Juan Pablo Carillo (Men's Swimming) October 19, 2009

Sara Spaventa (Women's Soccer) October 10, 2009

Karen Reis (Women's Volleyball) October 2, 2009

Daniel Pavitt (Men's Soccer) September 23, 2009

Daniel Anderson (Cross Country) September 11, 2009

Peter Gresham (Men's Water Polo) September 2, 2009

Alexia Zatarain (Women's Soccer) August 24, 2009

Elaine Chen (Women's Volleyball) August 12, 2009

Jared Kukura (Men's Soccer) July 30, 2009

Dawn Lee (Former Women's Soccer Standout) July 8, 2009

Rob Mamula (Director of Athletic Performance) June 18, 2009

Garrett Imeson (Baseball) June 8, 2009

Leon Baham (Men's Track & Field) May 21, 2009

Kristyn Lesovsky (Softball) May 8, 2009

Kazumi Negishi (Men's Tennis) May 5, 2009

Laiah Blue (Women's Track & Field) April 16, 2009

Ryan Andre (Men's Crew) April 2, 2009

Josh Tanner (Baseball) March 24, 2009

Anju Shimura (Women's Swimming) March 7, 2009

Stephanie Bocian (Women's Water Polo) February 20, 2009

Lauren Chastain (Softball) February 5, 2009

A.J. Maulhardt (Men's Basketball) January 28, 2009

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