After gaining All-America status as a sophomore by placing top six in three events (500, 1,000 & 1,650 freestyles) at the 2005 NCAA Division II Championships, UCSD junior Andrea Lippin will be aiming higher in 2006. Ranked second all-time on the Triton career list for both the 1,000 and 1,650, Lippin is a standout in two of the sport’s toughest races. The reason is no mystery to UCSD Head Coach Scott McGihon. “On a team of dedicated, hard workers, Andrea stands out as an exceptionally hard worker,” says McGihon. “And this year, she has emerged as a leader on the team as well.” Last summer, the 5-11 Scottsdale, AZ native represented the United States at the Maccabi Games in Israel. She took time recently to share her thoughts on swimming and prospects for the 2006 season.
Q-Is distance swimming as tough as it looks? The 1,650 freestyle is 66
lengths of the pool. Why does a swimmer choose that event?
LIPPIN-I’ve been swimming since I was really young, about six—that’s 14 years. My parents were careful to put me in all of the sports—you name it and I’ve done it. Swimming just stuck. I was good at it and really liked it.
My older brother swam and it was hard to go to all of his meets and practices and just watch. I thought it would be less painful by getting involved and that’s how it got started.
In swimming, they have you try everything and swimming distance is what I was best at.
Yes, it’s both physically and mentally difficult and challenging. That’s what I like best, the mental challenge. When you think you can’t go anymore, you push yourself and just keep on going.
It always amazes me, you think you can’t lift your arms out of the water but somehow, physically and mentally, you work through it. You do things you didn’t think were possible.
Q-What are your weekly workouts like?
LIPPIN-We start out Monday morning with our longest, hardest workout. You’ve got to start the week off right. We go about 8,500 yds. From there the workouts are more intense, but shorter.
Q-Is the “team concept” important in a sport like swimming, particularly distance swimming?
LIPPIN-That was the one thing that really amazed me coming from club swimming—how much of a team atmosphere there is here. Everyone is genuinely happy for each other and wants the best for each other. There’s no jealousy
When we’re excited for each other and acting as a team, it helps everyone as individuals.
One of my best memories was from my freshman year at the Speedo Cup. Everyone had these yellow shirts. When I swam the mile, they were all lined up on the side of the pool. Everytime I breathed, I could see them. It really motivated me and I had one of my best races. Cheering is an important part of every competition and even practices. We lift ourselves while we’re lifting each other.
Q- Can you really see and hear coaches and teammates while you’re racing?
LIPPIN- Definitely. It’s obviously easier to see when you’re swimming distance because the race is longer and you take longer breathes. Fifty times two laps—that’s a long time but the support makes it go by fast.
You can also hear people, whistling and clapping and it definitely has an effect.
Coaches and teams have hand signals and codes telling you to go faster, whether or not you’re on pace or maybe to relax if you’re working harder than you need to have the same outcome. I always look for Scott when I step onto the blocks.
Q-What is the key to successful distance swimming?
LIPPIN-Distance is all about thinking and focusing on what you’re doing. The 1,650 takes me about 17 minutes so you’ve got to concentrate and stay on task.
The funny thing about the mile is no matter how the seeding goes, there’s always a dispersion. You can be lapping someone who was seeded ahead of you because they had a great swim two months earlier but can’t do it again.
It’s also about working through problems. Somedays you get in and just don’t seem to have it. You have to try to ignore it and overcome if it doesn’t feel so good.
Q-When did you start thinking that you could achieve the type of success you’ve had at UCSD?
LIPPIN-Probably in my junior year of high school. When I was younger, I was always surrounded by people who were really fast—national level fast. I was good, but not that good.
I started to improve in high school and began thinking that maybe I could go farther. I have continued to improve in college which is kind of unusual. It’s a good feeling to know your work is paying off.
Q-What are your personal goals for this year and your hopes for the team?
LIPPIN- I want to be on the 800 freestyle relay team. I’ve never been on a relay team at UCSD. Right now, my 200 free time puts me there. I also want to place in the top three at NCAA in the 1,000 and mile. I think that’s within my reach.
As far as the team, after finishing third my first two years, we’re going for top two. I think we have a really good shot. We have some great freshmen who are surprising us every day and did a good job of qualifying at the Speedo Cup.
Q-Which of the returning swimmers would you predict will have “break through” seasons?
LIPPIN-Lauren Forbes is one. I swim distance with her and she’s been training really well. She gives me a run for my money.
Also Louisa Salisbury. She’s another who trains really hard and does amazing things in the weight room. She’s my inspiration in the weight room. She’s also the leader of our “breaststroke army” and thrives on competition.
Q-Growing up, were there any swimmers you particularly admired or learned from?
LIPPIN-Besides my teammates, not really. I did train with Olympian Misty Hyman and even though it was two years after the Olympics, she was a good mentor.
But mostly my teammates because they were really competitive. They had the swimming capabilities that I wanted to emulate. It’s good to have someone with you that you can live and breathe with.
Q-What about the teammates you’ve had at UCSD?
LIPPIN-I would say Christine Hyjek and Devin Spicer who were both seniors last year. Christine always swam with a lot of heart. She was a great leader. In the pool, whether meets or practice, she always wanted to be there and wanted the best for the team.
I only trained with Devin for a year but he was always racing, always pushing everyone around him to be better. He came back after being gone for two years and swam some of his lifetime bests. That’s incredible.
Q-What do you do in your spare time?
LIPPIN-I sleep—a lot (laugh). I like going to the beach, hanging out with friends. Right now, I really don’t have a lot of free time.
When I do, I like shopping for clothes and traveling.
Q-What destinations are at the top of your list?
LIPPIN-That’s hard. I want to go around the world. I’d like to buy a trans world ticket and see everything there is to see. My favorite places that I’ve visited so far are Israel and Australia.
Q-What were the Maccabi Games like?
LIPPIN-Israel, what an amazing experience. Just being there was tremendous. Everywhere you go there’s history—a story to tell. The people I met, I’ll never forget.
Also, becoming a member of a functioning team after one week was an amazing experience. The competition was a lot of fun and being able to swim with USA on your cap is a once in a lifetime experience.
Q-What is it like to swim for Scott McGihon
LIPPIN-I think Scott McGihon is a great coach. He’s really understanding but knows how to push us. He has the team’s respect. He gives us really challenging sets. Our jaws drop when he reads them to us but we always seem to surprise him and ourselves.
Q-How did you end up in San Diego coming out of Scottsdale?
LIPPIN-It’s funny, I was looking at a lot of East Coast schools and everyone thought I was making it up. My club coach suggested I look here (UCSD) because he knows Scott.
When I visited, I saw the connection on the team. I loved it and loved San Diego. My brother is in New York City and I love it when he calls and says they’re in the middle of a blizzard.
Q-What are your defining characteristics?
LIPPIN-Defining characteristics? I would say humor and sarcasm. I try to keep people on their toes. Also, a strong work ethic. That’s what makes me a good distance swimmer.
I would also say I’m enthusiastic, love the team, encourage others and am cheering all the time.
Q-You’re an international studies and economics major. Why did you choose that and where do you hope to go with it?
LIPPIN-Eventually I want to be an international business consultant or work in Washington, D.C. in some international agency—an embassy or something like that.
Another option is to work for NEG. I’m learning about that and it seems like an interesting career path. My dad is a businessman and has recently been on the international scene but mostly I went in this direction because of my interest in international politics.