Get to know your Vulcans: Melissa Gates

Melissa

Interviewed by Joshua LaskaSports/Managing Editor

What was it like winning your first 50 freestyle National Championship last year?

It was so amazing and like nothing else I had ever experienced.  I can’t even explain how happy I was when I touched the wall after my race last year and saw that “1” next to my name.  At first I couldn’t believe I had really done it; it was such a dream come true.

What was it like repeating as the 50 freestyle National Champion this year?

Well I knew it would be just as difficult; if not more difficult than it had been last year. But after I had the top time from the morning prelims session I knew it as only a matter of racing the people around me at the finals and having fun.

What was it like to capture both the 50 free and the 100 free National Championships this year?

Well during the whole season I was focused on defending my title from last year and then when that all came together for me in the 50, I had more confidence going into the 100.  There was a lot of very fast competition there and I knew they would give me a challenge so I think that got me even more excited before my race. I just tried to give it everything I had and all the work I had put in over the past years finally all came together for me.  It’s such a great feeling for any athlete to know that the countless hours they put into the sport have finally paid off.

What was it like breaking the national record twice in two days?

Very exciting. The first time I was a kind of nervous and just trying to win the 50 and didn’t really think about breaking the record, but then when I swam the relay I was a little more relaxed and just focused on having fun so I knew I could break it again.

What was it like to be invited to the Olympic Time trials after posting the time trial qualifying time?

The meet was actually at the pool at Pitt this past August, and I remember I had a pretty bad swim in the morning prelims and barely made it into finals that night. My coach told me to just have fun and focus on racing and not making the cut time so I just tried to go into finals thinking that and nothing else. Luckily it ended up working for me, as I won the 50 and made the cut time at that meet! It felt awesome, I just remember crying because I was so happy and running up to hug my dad in the stands after the race.

How hard was it to adjust to swimming at the college level?

It is definitely a lot more training at a more intense level than I was ever doing in high school.  The first couple months of my freshman year were very challenging mentally and physically. I never did two-a-day practices before high school and that was a big adjustment but in the long run I think its what took me to the next level in my sport.

Was there something that was really hard for you learn at the college level?

When I first came to college my starts were a disaster and it took me awhile to fix them. But I also used to get so nervous before big meets and it was difficult at first for me to learn to just relax and control my nerves before a race.

How do you stay “in the game” during the off-season?

I swim and train pretty much year round. At Cal we start practicing like the second week of school starting and go till almost the last day of school. Then when I’m home for the summer I train with my club team back in Lancaster and lift at the YMCA.  Honestly, since I’ve started college swimming 4 years ago I don’t think I’ve gone more than 3 or 4 days without getting in the pool.

What originally got you into swimming?

I loved being in the water and there’s a big community pool almost right in my backyard at home. All the kids in my neighborhood joined the summer swim team they have there, so one summer my mom just signed me and my sister up.

How many years have you swam?

I started on summer swim team at my neighborhood pool when I was 10 and then started swimming year round on a local YMCA team when I was 12. So I guess about 10.

What is one interesting fact that not everyone would know about you?

I learned how to ride a unicycle in gym class in my elementary school and still can to this day. Also, I have a horse named Badger (our unofficial swim team mascot) and I try to ride as much as I can when I’m not swimming.

Where are you from and where did you go to High School?

I’m from Lancaster, PA (about 4 hours east of here) and went to Conestoga Valley High School.

What do you plan on doing after college?

Well after I graduate in May I will be going up to Penn State to train with their team for Olympic Trials in early July and then after that I’m honestly not sure… I guess it depends on whether or not I make the Olympic team.  If not, hopefully I’ll find a good job, maybe out west, and continue stay active by doing triathlons.

What is your favorite tv show?

It’s a toss up between HBO’s True Blood and Grey’s Anatomy

Who are your favorite sports teams?

Recently attended my first Pens game and am starting to become a fan!

What is your favorite food?

I’m really not a picky eater and like pretty much anything. Double fudge cookie dough blizzards are absolutely amazing though.

What is your favorite movie?

I love the Indiana Jones and Back to the Future movies!

Do you have a favorite quote?

“You got a dream… You gotta protect it. People can’t do something themselves, they wanna tell you; you can’t do it. If you want something, go get it. Period.” –Christopher Gardner (The Pursuit of Happiness)

Do you have anything you would like to add?

Just a thank you to all the girls on the team, for making my 4 years here so much fun and memorable. I’ll miss you guys so much!

GATES’S SWIMMING STATS FOR THE VULCANS

Two time 50 Freestyle National Champion and one time 100 Freestyle National Champion

Named PSAC Women’s Swimmer of the Year


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