Q&A with Claire Crippen
Senior Claire Crippen and the 11th-ranked Virginia women’s swimming team competes for the final time this season at the 2011 NCAA Championships. The meet begins Thursday and runs through Saturday at the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center on the Texas campus in Austin. Live results for all six sessions will be linked on VirginiaSports.com and ESPN3.com will have a live webcast of finals on Friday and Saturday night. Crippen, a native of Conshohocken, Pa., recently caught up with VirginiaSports.com to preview the NCAA meet, reflect on the team’s fourth consecutive ACC championship and talk about her future plans.
Question: Describe what your fourth and final ACC Championships were like last month in Atlanta.
Crippen: Going into the meet, we knew it was going to be very up-and-down. We knew everyone was going to have to swim above and beyond her potential to win the meet. Especially the last day when we trailed – everyone had to make finals and swim their best. Luckily everyone did. And I think being down that much got everyone really excited to swim. Years before we always had to set goals for ourselves and this year, our goal was simply to win on the last day. It was so exciting to watch everyone dominate in the prelims on Saturday morning. It was stressful but it was a lot of fun.
Question: What was your win in the 400 individual medley like?
Crippen: My first two years I was totally relaxed and there wasn’t as much competition as there was last year. So last year at UNC I got really nervous in hopes that I would sort of get pumped up and it would help me swim better. But it didn’t, and that sort of contributed to my second-place performance last year. This year I really tried to stay relaxed and have fun. It was my last ACCs, my last 400 IM at ACCs, so whatever happens, happens – that was my mentality.
Question: Were you surprised when you finished to see how fast you swam?
Crippen: I was surprised going into the freestyle because I wanted to be in the lead after 300. My freestyle has always been a strong point in my 400 IM – I’m a backhalf swimmer in that race anyway. I knew if I could have it be close at the halfway point I would have a good chance. It didn’t feel like I was going that fast and I didn’t think I would break the record. It wasn’t in my mind. I just wanted to start the night on a good note for our team. And it was pretty incredible to have Katya (Bachrouche) and Anne Summer (Myers) in the final heat with me. It is definitely something I will remember for the rest of my life.
Question: What does it mean for your class to be the first to go out with four ACC championship rings?
Crippen: I don’t even think there are words to describe our excitement. We are so incredibly proud to lead this team and we are proud of each other. I think what has made us so successful is that fact that we came in here with the goal of winning four ACC championships. I remember even before we got here there being a Facebook thread with all of us talking about it and from the first day we got here we wanted to carry this team on our back. The people who have had that mindset for four years made it happen. Our personalities are all so different but we just mesh together so well. We all have something to bring – it doesn’t matter if you are the best swimmer. It’s been fun.
Question: What are your expectations going into NCAAs?
Crippen: We know it’s going to take a great meet for all 11 of us to get another top-10 finish. This meet is the fastest it’s ever been – the competition is unbelievable. Like Mark (Bernardino) says, it’s an honor to be there. It will be an honor to make it back at night and score. It’s going to take a lot to be able to repeat what we did last year but there is no doubt in my mind that if we all go in there with the mindset we can do it we will. The other big thing with this meet is that it’s really easy to get intimidated by all the other teams but we have to keep in mind we are one of the larger teams there. We have the potential to do some damage and be the dark horse in some events.
Question: What about for you individually, swimming in your last college meet?
Crippen: I’ve always gone into every swim meet just to have fun. I want to make it back (to finals) in all three events and I want to be better than I was at ACCs. That is my biggest thing going into this meet. I don’t want to end on a bad note in any way. I also want to be the best team supporter and leader I can be.
Question: What’s next for you?
Crippen: I am going to Vietnam this summer for about a month to work with a program called Coach for College. It’s with a bunch of current and former ACC student-athletes and I am going with eight others and will be coaching and teaching. My best friend from home, Katie Magee, is a swimmer at Duke and she is going with me. I’ve only been out of the country one other time and that was to go to Costa Rica so it’s definitely going to be an experience to remember. After that, I have applied to do Teach for America and am awaiting that decision. I will probably just take a year off from everything and relax and coach back home. Eventually I would like to get a teaching degree, but I’m in no rush.
Question: What has been your favorite class at UVa?
Crippen: Sign language. It was a small class – only 12 of us – but I had the same professor over four semesters. He (Rocco DeVito) is deaf and he is the best professor I have ever had. Being able to teach sign language when you’re deaf is such a hard task. He is an unbelievable man and his outlook on life is just incredible. You always left in a better mood than when you came in; it was such a joy to be in that class. It’s definitely been my hardest class too.
Question: What do you like to do for fun?
Crippen: We’ve really gotten into baking at my house. They like to make stuff like banana bread and pumpkin bread – healthy stuff for the most part. Hannah (Davis) probably cooks the most meals – and the most intricate meals. If anyone else cooks meals it’s throwing chicken in the oven or something like that. But Hannah follows recipes. Katya bakes a lot too and Liz (Shaw) is sort of in between, she does a little of both.
Question: What do you think you are going to remember the most about swimming at UVa?
Crippen: The people. I am going to miss the everyday relationships with my teammates but I am grateful to have been in an environment with a great group of people where we are doing something we all love. The relationships I have with the coaches – this year especially – I am very thankful. Mark (Bernardino) is so great to be around; he is so funny, he always makes me laugh. We all get so excited over a sport – it’s really crazy.
Question: What are you going to miss the most?
Crippen: The thing I am going to miss the most about swimming – and college in general – are the sweatpants. I wear sweatpants everyday and I am not going to be happy when I don’t get to wear them anymore. I am going to miss that a lot.