The 2012 season, his
first at UC San Diego, was a solid, if somewhat less than ideal experience for
current Triton sophomore Dane Stassi. He qualified for the NCAA Division II
Swimming & Diving Championships but lost a significant amount of training
time in the lead up due to illness and ended up finishing fifth in the 200
butterfly and 13th in the 100 butterfly. This season has been relatively smooth
sailing for the 6-4 sophomore from Irvine and that's reflected in his results
from last week's 2013 NCAA Championships in Birmingham, AL. Stassi won the 200 butterfly in school record
time of 1:45.12 and was seventh in the 100 fly at 48.27. In the aftermath of
the national meet, where the Triton men finished seventh and the women third,
Stassi spent time talking about the high intensity atmosphere of the NCAA
Championships, personal observations from the meet and what lies ahead.
Q-Do you think the
average sports fan has a sense of the type of pressure competitors at the NCAA
Swimming & Diving Championships face? What makes that event unique from a
STASSI- As far as
pressure goes I think it differs for everyone. I had a conversation with my
fellow teammate Nick Korth a week or two before we left and we talked about how
a lot of people are just happy to qualify for NCAA's where Nick and I were in a
position where we were expected to win or place very well in our events. So
there is definitely pressure in that sense but at the same time you're the top
seed in the country for a reason, so it doesn't become too overwhelming.
In general, though, everything a collegiate swimmer does throughout the whole
year is based on qualifying and swimming your best at the NCAA Championships.
People actually call it "The Meet,"
which helps explain why there's so much strain on virtually every competitor.
Q-As the top
qualifier and top seed coming out of the prelims, what kind of pressure did you
feel leading up to the finals of the 200 butterfly in Birmingham? How did you
deal with it?
STASSI- I didn't
really feel too much pressure I just wanted to get my finals swim over with to
be honest. I was ahead by over a second going into finals so I wasn't too
worried. I knew some guys were planning on swimming faster at night but at the
same time so was I.
Q-Describe that race.
What was the key to victory? What were your feelings as you were celebrating in
the pool, post-race?
STASSI- I've swam
who knows how many 200 butterflys this year so to me it was just another 200
fly. As far as victory goes it's swimming it smart. A few guys in the final
took it out way too fast and then died off. It is not a quick race, you have to
know how to pace it. I was happy as hell when I touched watching my team, the
coaches, the parents, and the alumni all go crazy was a pretty cool feeling.
Q-In a sport where
training is essential and nearly year-round, where do you draw your motivation?
How difficult is it to maintain that level of work over that period of time?
STASSI- I love
the sport, I've been doing it since I was four so it's all I've ever known. It
can be hard at times to train but at the same time you have 26 other guys who
are training with you, guys you can fall back on, guys that are experiencing
the same stuff you are.
Q-So, was it all
worth it when you hit the wall first in Alabama?
STASSI- Well, a
win is incredible but there are so many other things that make it worth it.
Some of my best friendships have come from this sport. I know it's pretty cheesy
but honestly sports in general, not just swimming, I think teach you way more
than just a classroom ever could. While the win is nice there are many other
factors out there that make it worthwhile.
Q-It may be a bit
early for this, but what's in the future for you as far as swimming? What's the
next mountain for you individually and the team collectively to climb?
STASSI- I have
World Trials in June in Indianapolis, so I hope to swim fast there. As far as
the team goes we have Speedo Grand Challenge in May. Other than that it's a
brief period of rest until we hit the grind again.
As a team, the men didn't do as well as we'd expected and when we were watching
the women accept their third place trophy, one of my teammates, Alex Merrill,
said, "we're not going to be standing here next year, we're going to be back up
on that podium," which I think speaks for all of us.
Personally, I've won the 200 fly so I'll be looking to improve my standing in
my other events, the 100 fly as well as the 50 and 100 free.
Q-At an NCAA
Championship event, is it all business or is there an opportunity for outside
activities? What were your impressions of Birmingham?
STASSI- We showed
up on Sunday the competition started on Wednesday so we got to see quite a bit
of Birmingham. The people were incredibly nice. It's hard to beat Southern
Q-One of the most
exciting races at this year's Championships was the 200 breaststroke in which
your teammate, Nick Korth, the 2011 champion, came within 16/100ths of a second
of running down Grand Canyon's Eetu Karvonen in a photo finish. Were you able
to watch that race? How would you describe it?
STASSI- I watched
it, hands down my favorite race of the entire meet. Nick works crazy hard and
does so much more outside the pool to better himself as an athlete. Eetu looked
in control for the first half and then Nick just turned it on and started to
run him down. You know he didn't place first but he shattered the NCAA record
and his time ranks incredibly high in Division I, far higher than my 200 fly
time does. Nick should be incredibly proud of what he did. He didn't get the
win but like I said before there is so much more than just a win.
perspective, what were some other notable Triton NCAA moments in 2013?
STASSI- My second
favorite event was Anji Shakya's 200 free was really fun to watch. She won an
NCAA title which was great and it was a really close race. The girl from Drury
was pushing her to the finish. (Teammate) Olivia Fountain and I were jumping up
and down in the warm-up pool and getting so loud that the television cameras
were turned on us.
Q-What separates UCSD
Swimming & Diving from other top
programs in the country?
STASSI- Well, we
are really close with our divers and our dive coach which from what I hear is
not the norm. We also train together meaning guys and girls, which creates an
amazing family atmosphere.
Q-You have a fairly
unique pre-race routine. What does it consist of and how did it develop?
STASSI- I slap
the living hell out of myself. I try to cause as much physical pain as possible,
it really triggers that fight or flight response and floods adrenaline
throughout my body. I honestly don't remember how it started but I've been
doing for quite a while now.
Q-What are your first
recollections of swimming? What made you gravitate to it as a competitor and
what keeps you going?
remember learning how to swim with floaties around my arms. I absolutely love
the water. If I'm not swimming then I'm likely at the beach. Too many reasons
to name as to -why I've stuck with it.
Q-What is the most significant thing that
your coaching staff brings to our performance?
passion is pretty unreal. Each coach loves the sport almost more than we do.
Even on minor sets during practice you will catch Coach (Matt) Macedo yelling
or cheering you on.
Q-The 200 butterfly
is considered one of swimming's toughest events? Is there one event that even you
would not want to swim?
STASSI- I hate
the 200 backstroke. It's something I used to swim and I hated it so much. It
makes your quads burn worse than any other physical activity. Also the mile
it's a 15-minute race, no thank you.
Q-On the atypical day
when you have no practice or classes, what's likely to be on your agenda?
STASSI- Sleep in
and probably waste half the day. Eat and then eat some more. Then I usually do
errands like grocery shop, laundry or catch up on studying.
classes, what have been a couple of your favorites at UCSD?
who has had Dr. G (Galderisi) for a Poli Sci class knows how awesome he is.
Hendrickson is pretty cool for History too.
Q-You've listed body surfing as one of
your favorite hobbies. What's the best body surfing beach in San Diego? Orange
STASSI- From what
I've heard Birdrock is really good in SD for body surfing I usually go to
Scripps. In Orange County, definitely Irvine Cove.
Q-You're a political
science major with designs on law school. What do you hope to be doing 10 years
really too sure yet! Probably working for a law firm.
finished swimming at UCSD, what do you hope you'll be remembered for?
My god-awful puns that I
tell every day. On a more serious note if people hear my name and it carries a
positive connotation, that's all I could ask for.
Previous Q & A Articles
Munira Gesner (Fencing) March 6, 2013
Julius Espiritu (Swimming and Diving) February 24, 2013
Kirsten Willmon (Softball) February 17, 2013
Sebastian Brady (Men's Volleyball) February 7, 2013
Daisy Feder (Women's Basketball) January 21, 2013
Craig Elsten (UCSD Athletics Broadcaster) January 14, 2013
Beth Dong (Women's Swimming & Diving) December 3, 2012
Tyler McGrath (Men's Basketball) November 15, 2012
Danielle Dahle (Women's Volleyball) October 26, 2012
Jessica Wi (Women's Soccer) October 10, 2012
Elena Inouye (Women's Cross Country) October 1, 2012
Josh Stiling (Men's Water Polo) September 15, 2012
Alec Arsht (Men's Soccer) August 28, 2012
Amber Hawthorne (Women's Volleyball) August 13, 2012
Kristin Jones (Women's Soccer Assistant Coach) June 24, 2012
Nick Howe (Men's Track & Field) May 13, 2012
Kris Lesovsky (Softball) March 16, 2012
Danny Susdorf (Baseball) March 6, 2012
Sarah Lizotte (Women's Water Polo) February 9, 2012
Charity Elliott (Women's Basketball) January 31, 2012
Alex Henley (Women's Swimming & Diving) January 17, 2012
James McCann (Men's Basketball) December 29, 2011
Emily Osga (Women's Basketball) December 19, 2011
John Butler (Men's Water Polo) November 28, 2011
Lauren Demos (Women's Volleyball) November 8, 2011
Cory Wolfrom (Men's Soccer) October 26, 2011
Ellen Wilson (Women's Soccer) October 1, 2011
Brian Donohoe (Men's Water Polo) September 4, 2011
Roxanne Brunsting (Women's Volleyball) August 19, 2011
Jon Pascale (Men's Soccer) August 4, 2011
Vincent Nguyen (Tennis) July 1, 2011
Patti Gerckens (Softball) May 26, 2011
Blake Tagmyer (Baseball) May 11, 2011
Theresa Richards (Women's Track & Field) April 27, 2011
Austin West (Men's Tennis) April 17, 2011
Drew Lawyer (Men's Crew) April 11, 2011
Keith Okasaki (Men's Golf) March 26, 2011
Matt Herman (Men's Swimming & Diving) March 12, 2011
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
Annette Ilg (Women's Basketball) January 22, 2009
Steven Hardy (Men's Swimming) January 13, 2009
Frank Fritsch (Men's Volleyball) January 5, 2009