Q&A with Lauren Smart
Sophomore Lauren Smart and the Virginia women’s swimming team heads to the NCAA Championships this week looking to improve on its 12th-place finish from a year ago. The national meet begins Thursday in West Lafayette, Ind., and the Cavaliers are represented by a school-record 16 swimmers at the event. Smart, a native of Charlotte, N.C., recently caught up with VirginiaSports.com to chat about the upcoming NCAA meet, her first individual ACC championship, her favorite event to swim and what she likes to do for fun.
Question: Coming off a great ACC meet, what have you done to prepare for NCAAs?
Smart: We set some new team goals, like what we want to do at NCAAs, so that will get us fired up. When the psyche sheet came out, that also was a big pump up because our relays are all top eight and we have a chance to do something really great. We did really well at ACCs but we try to stay focused. It’s been fun and everyone has had their spirits up so it’s been really good. I’m ready. I’m excited and ready to get up there.
Question: Will you be less nervous and know what to expect since it’s your second time around?
Smart: I will know what to expect, that’s for sure. I am usually a ball of nerves at a meet, so I am going to get just as nervous as I did last year but it will probably be more controlled because I know what to expect.
Question: What was your first individual (in the 100 fly) win at ACCs like for you?
Smart: It was exactly what I wanted to do. It was important to the team. Especially that night – Mark (Bernardino) really puts a big emphasis on that night – and I think the first event we didn’t win. I was second and I know I had to swim well for everyone to turn the night around and start it on a better foot.
Question: What is your favorite event to swim?
Smart: 100 butterfly. Backstroke was the first stroke I excelled in, but butterfly was something that came out of nowhere and so it’s always been fun. It was always like, ‘Oh, I guess I’ll swim fly.’ I ended up getting much better so I guess there’s never as much pressure and I don’t have to train as much.”
Question: What is the hardest event for you?
Smart: 200 back. You can talk to any of the coaches. I put up a pretty big fight about swimming that event. Mentally. it is probably the most difficult – getting over doing it for that long. I like sprinting, In season it’s so hard – it’s a lot of leg. But for me, it’s mental. I just let it get the best of me. At a taper meet, at ACCs, I just get over it and do it.
Question: How did you get started swimming?
Smart: I swam summer league and then I actually swam every day for two months and cried every day going to practice so I quit. Then my coach who coached me when I was younger was a lifeguard at my pool. I don’t know why, but he asked me if I wanted to swim for him and I said yes. I don’t know why because the year before I had absolutely hated it. At the time I was about 10. I don’t know why my mom let me sign up for it again. I literally did tantrums going to practice.
Question: So what changed?
Smart: I started swimming and I played soccer at the same time and I really didn’t take swimming seriously until I was about 14. Up until then I just really didn’t like swimming. I just kind of did it twice a week and played soccer twice a week so it wasn’t a huge focus. When I was 14, I took off in swimming I started liking it a lot more. Then I ended up here and the rest is history.
Question: What made you choose to come swim at UVa?
Smart: It all came together. Academics, location, coaches and the team – it just fit. Everything fit.
Question: How have you grown as a swimmer over the past two years?
Smart: I am a very routine person, so last year was a whirlwind I think. This year I am still nervous for my races but I have more control. This year from last year is a total 180. I feel much more calm. Last year I was thrown into training, thrown into school, thrown into meeting all these people. The whole thing last year was just hard. This year is totally different.”
Question: What do you like to do for fun?
Smart: I love when my sister comes to visit. She doesn’t come that often, but she has come twice this year. I like being in the company of others. I live in a house with seven other girls. You can ask anyone – I’m never in my room. I always want to be around people, so that’s probably my biggest hobby – socializing. Probably because I don’t get to socialize while my face is in the water. I have to make up for it.”
Question: What is your favorite spot on Grounds?
Smart: The Rotunda and the Lawn. I love the Lawn. I feel like I don’t get there enough. I just love spring. I love warm weather – anywhere on Grounds when it’s warm.”