March 29, 2011
20 Questions with Amanda Sims
By Bob Schaller//Correspondent
Amanda Sims did two things in 2009 that she really wanted to do again this year: help Cal to another NCAA team championship, and win the 100 fly. Sims, a member of the 2011 U.S. World University Games Team did that, and hopes to have a strong showing at Olympic Trials next year.
your wildest dreams, did you envision graduating as a two-time NCAA
Amanda: Not really! When I first decided to go to Cal, winning NCAAs was not one of my prevalent items (laughs) in choosing a school, so it has been a nice surprise.
This one was different from 2009, wasn’t it?
Amanda: It was. The first time we won, no one was really expecting us to win. We didn’t either. We were just having fun and enjoying it. This time we were a little more favored. There’s more pressure and expectations. This team is very different than the one two years ago.
What made this year so special?
Amanda: We had to work harder as a group. We had nine new freshmen this year. Getting everyone on the same page, the leadership roles on our team – all of that had to be established and developed. Of course, the coaching staff was great. But it’s always harder to win when you are expected to, rather than when you can surprise people.
Would not winning a title have been a huge disappointment this
Amanda: I don’t think so. All we focused on this year was being our best. As long as we did our best, the outcome would take care of itself, whether that was fifth, second or first place. We would have been proud no matter the placing provided we all did our best. It just so happened our best was good enough for another team championship.
What a field you beat for the 100 fly crown. Does that make it mean
Amanda: Oh, definitely yes. I don’t define myself as really competitive, though I did think that was my race to win, so I am glad I did. It was a tough field. I have a lot of respect for all the girls in that field. We have been racing not just this past year, but the past four years – and some a lot longer than that. I really respect all my competitors, and hope they respect me.
You are smaller at 5-8. Is that something that only works against
you if you let it?
Amanda: Yeah, that is true. It’s all a reflection of how hard you work. You can exploit it to your advantage. Sometimes it helps to be small around the walls, because you can get in and out really quick. I am not physically intimidating, but you work with what you have and make the best of it.
Your father was on the Cal 1979 men’s swimming NCAA
Championship team. How cool is that?
Amanda: Oh man! Of course, it’s definitely cool. It’s really cool when we walk around Haas (Pavilion, where the team works out), we get to see the picture of the 1979 team climbing up the scoreboard, and I can say, “Oh, hey, there’s my Dad.” It would have been cool to win a national championship wherever I went to school, but to keep it in the Cal family is pretty special.
you have bragging rights at home with two titles, right?
Amanda: I guess (laughs). I mean, my family keeps me pretty humble. There’s no bragging. My father wasn’t there in ’09 for the first (NCAA Championship), so it was nice getting a hug this time with him there.
How much did the WUGs trip to Serbia for USA Swimming in 2009 help
you as a big-meet swimmer?
Amanda: It definitely helped me. It’s hard to get up and race after traveling that far. That wasn’t an easy travel situation, so it prepares you to do your best under the worst of circumstances. It’s hard to get your hand to the wall if you don’t feel confident, and that trip – traveling three days, the time change, being in a foreign country and not speaking the language – was a great experience for those of us on the team, and it meant a lot to represent our country.
March is a big month for you, isn’t it?
Amanda: My birthday is in March, and so is my older sister’s. The dates are eight days apart, so that is fun for us, plus of course we’re just coming home from NCAAs. We also like March Madness basketball.
What has Cal coach Teri McKeever done for you?
Amanda: You can’t really even put it into words. What she has done for me personally, being honest with what she wanted out of her career, what she wanted the team culture to look like. I feel like it is indescribable. I can’t compare her to any coach because I don’t think there’s any comparison. She gets the best out of us in ways that we don’t think is even possible. I am so proud to say I swam for her and this program.\
You like her style of cross training and not focusing only on large
amounts of yardage?
Amanda: We still do a lot of yardage, but we do definitely have fun with the cross training. Though I should point out there are some exhausting spin classes that don’t (laughs) feel so fun afterward. You think, “Well, at least it wasn’t 10,000 in the water,” but after some of the dryland, you think the water doesn’t sound (laughs) so bad. What the cross training does is keep us fresh in the pool and happy to be there. I definitely support the cross training because it builds our endurance and works our muscles a little differently, and keeps us from getting run down from doing long sets. It keeps it new and exciting mentally. We can listen to music and see each other, so it’s a different atmosphere. Plus it’s nice among the team because you see people who maybe don’t excel in one area excel in a spin class or run or something, so it’s nice to see them shine. You see people putting forth an awesome performance and it helps you bring that out of yourself.
What are you majoring in and how awesome is Cal’s academic
Amanda: My major is history. I think the program is just very humbling. At Cal-Berkeley, you really appreciate what is around you. You never get bigheaded because there is always someone smarter, faster and stronger around you. I go into a classroom and I am so blessed to be around these people. In athletics, I get to be inspired and motivated by these amazing people. It’s great.
It was seen as a liberal hotbed during Vietnam. Has that
Amanda: Cal is still definitely its own place, but I believe the conservative-run group is the biggest on campus, though we still have a large group that is liberal. But it’s always politically hot as an atmosphere on this campus. You are aware of things going on in (the) world, and I think it is good to see people excited about what is going on in the world. No matter what their opinions are, you can learn from them, and it’s better to have an informed opinion than not know what is going on. We even talk about that in the locker room (laughs), “Hey, what’s that group of people outside – someone didn’t pass a ballot?”
Do you still see Natalie Coughlin and others in the post-grad
Amanda: I still see Natalie and she is incredible. We have some other amazing post grads. It’s nice they have some experience and different perspective on the college atmosphere. If anyone ever has a question they can go get these great perspectives from these people who have a lot of experiences to share from – they support the Golden Bears, and want to see us go as far as we can go, too.
It seemed like other teams made a stronger start at NCAAs last
week, or is that accurate?
Amanda: People have asked me that, and before the meet, (Assistant coach) Kristen (Cunnane) said, “Hey, expect to hear that we’re favored,” and we just moved on from there. After the first day, we had 115 points and I think it was Teri who said that was the most points we ever scored on a day one, so we were happy. But we were happy because we were swimming our best and enjoying it. Part of that for me came from being a senior and knowing that these moments don’t come along often, that they won’t last for a long time, so to enjoy it with the great people we had around us.
How is the title – the feeling – different this
Amanda: It’s exciting in different ways. It’s not the exciting shock it was in ‘09, or “I’m on top of the world and my life is forever different” – because the reality is after a national championship, while it is awesome, your life really isn’t that different even though it’s a great accomplishment and something you’ll remember and be proud of for the rest of your life. This time was about taking in all the people who were there and enjoying our time as a team. This was about team.
Will you swim until London?
Amanda: Well, I am going to keep swimming until Trials! I have another semester of school after this spring, so I don’t have to think about graduate school yet. Trials will be the main focus in December after school is done, and then I will look at graduate school and what I want to do with my life. My degree is in history and while I enjoy it, I don’t know if I want to teach because I don’t like getting up in front of people and talking.
What’s the mood like on campus since winning the title?
Amanda: We’re on spring break right now, so I haven’t been in Berkeley. I came home and had a balloon thing from my family and friends which is nice. I’m at home in Santa Rosa, where the community has always been so supportive and nice. It’s great to come home to open arms. The (Cal) men’s team is going to be proud of us, I know that, and we’re going to (be) more excited to see them swim. When we get back on campus, the other students and professors and everyone know about the teams and how we do and appreciate it, which is just great, too.
What has swimming taught you about life?
Amanda: That you have to be consistent. That if you show up and try your best every day, good things will happen. That carries over to school and life. If you can do your best, no matter what happens in the end, you will have no regrets.