Q&A with Dan McMahon
Senior Dan McMahon and the Virginia swimming and diving teams are coming off a conference dual meet win over Virginia Tech. The Cavaliers return home to the AFC next Saturday for an 11 a.m. dual meet with Kentucky. McMahon recently caught up with VirginiaSports.com to talk about the meet with the Hokies, his obsession with the Kennedys and his aspirations to work on Capitol Hill.
Question: You had two wins in the meet against Virginia Tech, what did you take away from that?
McMahon: It was good. A middle-of-the-week meet is tough to swim because we are used to getting up on Fridays and Saturdays. It is hard to get the energy up, it is kind of a dark pool and starting to get cold out, but Mark told us we all had to get up and swim fast. He said to me, “You have to win this 200 fly, so do whatever you have to do to win it.” So it wasn’t really about the times. I was not really pleased with my swims in terms of the times but I was pleased with the wins – that is what we had to go in there and do.
The rivalry with Virginia Tech is that they always give us a good meet. In my four years of swimming here it is nice to go into a pool and have them give us a good meet. They have a great squad and they always put up a good meet, especially in relays. They are always really aggressive in relays and so it is fun to swim against them.
Question: How did you get started swimming?
McMahon: I probably learned to swim when I was about three, and my mom has been an avid swimmer all her life. She actually was recruited to swim for Santa Clara back when there was pretty much only one or two big swimming clubs in the country. Her swimming never panned out, and she runs marathons now, but she got me in the pool when I was really little. I didn’t start swimming competitively until I was about eight, and then I got very serious around the age of 12. And here I am now, my last year.
Question: What was the appeal of Virginia, being from Atlanta?
McMahon: I lined up a lot of recruiting trips my senior year, and scheduled five trips to Virginia, Princeton, Stanford, Auburn and Michigan. I took the Auburn trip and enjoyed it, I took the Princeton trip and enjoyed it, but then I came to Virginia and literally the second I got here it just felt right. I think any college swimmer you ask, any kid that comes here, even, would say it just feels good. The campus was amazing, Mark was amazing and I really got great vibes from the coaches. I knew that I was going to be able to do great things coming to Virginia. I cancelled my other two trips and signed with Virginia about two weeks later. I guess the rest is history, as they say.
Question: What are your career aspirations?
McMahon: I am an English major and a history minor. My future career aspirations right now are to take the LSAT, I think around June, and use the spring to study really hard for that. I am working on getting a job in Washington, D.C. – I would love to work either on the Hill or in some branch of government. As it is with politics it has a lot to do with connections and is about meeting people. I would really enjoy working in the Attorney General’s office, but I’m not sure I will be able to swing that. I would settle for something on Capitol Hill, but I am really interested in politics and I think it would be fulfilling to do something in public service for maybe two years and then apply to law school and go from there. Right now, it is about finding that job.
Question: Do you have a dream job?
McMahon: Right now I just want to get a job. A dream job seems so far down the line, but I would love to do something in the political arena someday. I don’t want to be a career civil servant or in career public service because that just gets really tough. I would love to go to law school and maybe be a lawyer for a while and enjoy private practice. Then, who knows.
Question: What has been your favorite class so far at UVa?
McMahon: My favorite class I just took this past spring. It was a history class on 1945-present with a focus on America-Soviet relations. I had an unreal professor and it really sparked my interest and turned my career aspirations in a different direction, so it was exciting. I really enjoyed that class.
Question: What is your favorite event to swim?
McMahon: 50 butterfly. I have been on the relays this year, and I have never been on a relay before in my four years that has mattered. So this year it is really nice to be able to step up and try to fill the shoes of greats like Lee Robertson and Pat Reams who have graduated. It is awesome to get a chance to swim on relays. I love all the butterfly events, but 50 fly is a lot of fun.
Question: What do you like to do for fun?
McMahon: I really enjoyed reading a lot over the summer. I had an internship here in Charlottesville, and it is nice swimming here over the summer because you get a chance to relax and do other things. I read a lot of biographies, and a lot of political stuff. I read a great book about Lincoln called Team of Rivals that talked about how he chose his cabinet with different personalities and how effective that is for leadership. But I really enjoy the Kennedys – I have always been a huge history buff but that class in the spring really sparked my political interest and now I’m a big Kennedy buff.
Question: What is your favorite book of all time?
McMahon: I probably couldn’t give you a favorite. Cormac McCarthy is probably my favorite author. Evan Thomas’ biography of Robert Kennedy was an awesome book that I read this summer, but I would definitely recommend anything by Cormac McCarthy. I could rattle off some classics like The Great Gatsby or The Sound and the Fury but I read Cormac McCarthy here, and as I get older I think it is really cool when you take a class and you read a book that really sparks your interest and that you enjoy.
Question: What was your best Halloween costume?
McMahon: I have always had awful Halloween costumes. But this year I have been told that I should either be Robert Kennedy or Chuck Bass from Gossip Girl. No one would know who Chuck Bass is, and that would involve me wearing purple, in which case I would get a lot of grief from the guy’s team. Halloween always ends up being last-minute. A week later you think of the costume you should have done, or you see someone out with a great costume and then you think, ‘That is a great idea.’ We actually usually have recruits on Halloween, so this is the first year that we can kind of relax and enjoy it.