Without a doubt, the brightest light on the UC San Diego Men’s Swimming & Diving team during the fall of 2006 was senior Tim Fuller. The 6-foot sprinter out of nearby West Hills High School in Santee has turned in lifetime bests in 50 (20.77), 100 (45.36) and 200 (1:40.86) freestyles as well as the 100 butterfly (51.18) while automatically qualifying for the NCAA Division II Championships in the three freestyle events (he’s ranked in the top six nationally in each). Additionally, Fuller has assumed the role of team co-captain with fellow senior Jake Dong. “Tim emphasized changes in his stroke technique after last season and really worked hard through the spring and summer to be ready this fall,” said UCSD Head Coach Scott McGihon. “He’s obviously a person we can count on for individual dual meet wins and he anchors all of our relays. Tim’s clearly a leader on our team through both word and deed.” With the arrival of the holiday break and the midpoint of the 2006-07 campaign, Fuller took time to talk about his and the team’s past, present and future.
Q-Everything seems to be coming together for you so far this season. What’s the reason?
FULLERóI think the main thing that has changed for me this year is attitude. I’ve come into every meet with the mindset that I can beat anyone put into the lane next to me, and I’ve proven it so far. Also, this is my last year and I’m focused on making it the best for myself as well as the team.
Q-You’ve evolved into a leadership role with the team. What are the requirements of leadership from your perspective?
FULLERóI’ve learned a lot about being a leader since I was voted by my teammates to be their captain this year. There are times that Jake and I have to make decisions that are not very popular with the team, but are in the team’s best interest in the end. Also, we have to constantly be looking at the team’s morale and each individual’s concerns, because things can go bad quickly if there is a problem. It is much more difficult being a leader at this level than being captain of the swimming and water polo teams in high school. There have been times when I feel like the responsibility is too much, but thankfully I have Jake to help me out and vice versa.
Q-As a senior, your competitive swimming career is coming toward a close. What are your thoughts about that?
FULLERóIt’s difficult for me to fathom this. I’ve been swimming year-round for 16 years, and being only 22 years old, I can’t really remember a time where I didn’t have to go to practice every day. I’ll just have to see how I handle it when the time comes. But for now I’m focused on this season.
Q-You are primarily a sprinter but also swim butterfly and compete on a number of relay teams. What is your favorite and least favorite event? Why?
FULLERóMy favorite event is probably the 50 free. Not because it is the shortest event, but because it is always the closest race and anyone has a shot at winning it. It focuses less on endurance and more on who can get off the block quickest, power through the water, nail their turn, and finish strong. My least favorite of the events I swim is the 800 free relay. It is difficult to keep the momentum and energy from the start going throughout the relay. Also, I haven’t swam well in that event for quite a while. Hopefully I’ll be able to change that at NCAA’s.
Q-Swimming entails a long season, fairly repetitive training and relatively few competitions. What characteristics does a successful swimmer need to have?
FULLERóI believe that the only characteristic that a successful swimmer needs to have is a will to succeed. I’ve seen all sorts of people do well in this sport, through different means. Some people are just naturally talented and have gone very far in the sport with hardly any training at all, while others have had to work extremely hard for their success. Some people question the ability of swimmers to mentally withstand repetitive training without getting burnout. I am a fairly hyperactive person, and I can handle monotonous training. The coaches do a lot to keep us focused on our purpose.
Q-Is swimming the most demanding sport?
FULLERóIn terms of time commitment, as well as emotional and mental commitment, swimming is indeed the most demanding sport. I’ve played many sports and have friends that are also high-level athletes in other sports and can say with a certainty that swimming takes the most commitment of all. Getting up at 5:30 AM, four-to-five times a week would be hard for most athletes, but then add in the fact that after we get up we are jumping into a cold pool, swimming hard for two hours, then lifting for another hour before we even get a chance to sit down to breakfast. And that’s just the first workout of the day. Swimmers have to plan their life around swimming, instead of swimming around their life.
If we were to look at the question from a physically demanding standpoint, I would say that it is hard to judge. I’ve seen a lot of swimmers who are not as naturally talented succeed at high levels of this sport through hard work and dedication. The same cannot be said for other sports. If you are 5’8”, no matter how hard you work you will never be a center for the Lakers.
Q-What prompted you to get into competitive swimming? Did you have anyone that inspired you along the way?
FULLERóI was first introduced to competitive swimming when my older brother Peter decided he wanted to try it out. My mom made me go too and we both joined a year-round team. I couldn’t swim well enough to make the team so I had to take private lessons for about a month until I could get by well enough for practice every day.
I have had plenty of inspirations in my swimming career, but the biggest impact was made by my age group coaches from my club team, Heartland Swim Association (HSA) in El Cajon. Coaches Kevin Eslinger and Pat Tope had to deal with me every day, and they kept me going through a lot of rough years when I was younger.
Q-How is Coach Scott McGihon different than other coaches you have had? Has he made you a better swimmer?
FULLERóCoach McGihon is by far the best motivator I’ve met in my swimming career. He knows how to get every individual on the team prepared to swim their best. This alone has helped me become a better swimmer. Scott, along with Coach Damion Dennis, has driven into me the belief that in any race, not matter how I feel beforehand, I am capable of swimming faster than I have in my life and can beat anyone. It took me a while to believe this, but now that I do, I have seen tremendous results.
Q-What are the differences between the Tim Fuller that came to UCSD as a freshman and the one who will graduate in spring 2007?
FULLERóMy freshman year I was mostly indifferent to my swimming and, unfortunately, my grades. After achieving some success and becoming more involved with the team over the years, I became more focused on what I was doing rather than just going through the motions. Now I know what I am here to do and can’t wait to see this team compete at PCSC’s and NCAA’s.
Q-What do you expect from yourself and the team at the 2007 NCAA Division II Championships?
FULLERóFrom myself I expect to place well in all of my events, hopefully making the top eight in everything I swim. The only real personal goal I have for myself at the meet is to swim faster than I ever have before.
From the team I expect to see us finish among the top four teams this year and bring home another trophy. We have a lot of people headed to NCAA’s this year for the first time and I am excited to see them compete at the national level and prove themselves.
Q-What do you do for fun and relaxation away from the pool?
FULLERóI love music. I have interest in just about any genre you can name, and the music on my iPod never fails to surprise people. I like to write songs and make music with friends as well, though I’m not as musically talented as I’d like to be.
Also, I like to participate in a lot of different sports such as football, basketball, surfing, and skateboarding. It is hard to do all of these things at times because I’m always so tired from swim practice, but it’s the sacrifice I make. Being a San Diego native, I have a lot of friends outside of the ones from UCSD, and I spend a lot of time with them. We often go down to Mexico together on fishing and surfing trips. When I have the free time for it, I also enjoy volunteering and helping people that are less fortunate than myself.
Q-Over the years, you’ve sported quite a few different hairstyles. Is there any method to the madness?
FULLERóThere is definitely no method, only madness. Sometimes I just feel like changing it, and though my mom wouldn’t tell you so, hair can always grow back. It’s just another thing to do if I get bored.
Q-After graduation, what’s next?
FULLERóI’m not sure about that yet, though I know that I will be taking a break from school. I will likely be looking for a job where I can work under other structural engineers, learn the ins and outs and gain experience.
Q-What are the things you will remember most about being a member of the UCSD swim team?
FULLERóThe thing I will remember the most about being a member of this team is how close we are. Our team is like a family. Things aren’t always perfect but we know that everyone here cares about each other. Most men’s teams we encounter don’t have much of a relationship with the women’s team, but at UCSD both teams train together, compete together, and hang out together. This brings us all closer and is really a special experience.
Previous Q&A articles
Tim Fuller (Men's Swimming) December 20, 2006
Alexis Mezzetta (Women's Basketball) December 10, 2006
Clint Allard (Men's Basketball) November 30, 2006
Kristin Halvorsen (Women's Basketball) November 18, 2006
Adnan Jerkovic (Men's Water Polo (November 1, 2006)
Caitlin Ryan (Women's Soccer) October 24, 2006
Amber Ries (Women's Volleyball) Sep. 24, 2006
Chase Douglas (Men's Soccer) Sep. 13, 2006
Diane Dunn (Women's Cross Country) Sep. 5, 2006
Jesse Casellini (Men's Water Polo) Sep. 1, 2006
Nicole Courtney (Women's Volleyball) Aug. 18, 2006
Chelsey Campbell (Women's Soccer) Aug. 9, 2006
Dan Holligan (Men's Cross Country) Aug. 2, 2006)
Tony Salerno (Head Track and Field Coach) - June 8, 2006
Cara Kuebert (Women's Crew) - May 23, 2006
Damian Fante (Baseball) - May 9, 2006
Whitney Johnson (Women's Track and Field) - May 1, 2006
Flynn LaRochelle (Women's Water Polo) - April 27, 2006
Marsha Malinow (Women's Tennis) - April 19, 2006
Steven Oliver (Men's Crew) - April 11, 2006
Brad Libuit (Men's Track and Field) - April 6, 2006
Erik Oijala (Men's Tennis) - March 30, 2006
Jenny Spencer (Softball) - March 20, 2006
David Gomez (Baseball) - March 15, 2006
Hillary Hansen (Women's Basketball) - March 7, 2006