Q&A with Matt McLean
Fourth year Matt McLean, a native of Sterling, Va., recently sat down with VirginiaSports.com to reflect on his career as a Cavalier. He claimed the NCAA title in the 500 freestyle last month at the national championships, the first individual title for the UVa men since 2000.
Question: What do you remember about the 500 freestyle race at NCAAs?
McLean: I tried to focus on proper execution and maintaining my race plan, especially when racing someone like Conor (Dwyer of Florida), or Bobby (Bollier of Stanford), especially in that last 50. At the very beginning I felt like Conor and I were really sizing each other up. So it was a good step for me to really maintain my own race plan and be patient, not get too excited in the beginning of the race. I knew if I did things right I was capable of doing well.
Question: How was this year different than others?
McLean: I felt like I have always put in a good body of work and I have always been fit. But this year I was able to focus on the small things. I made some adjustments outside the pool. I reassessed the most important things in my life. I just really focused on doing everything in my power correctly. Everything sort of worked out nicely this year. Now it’s time to refocus and get back to work.
Question: As a team, UVa had its best finish at NCAAs. What did it mean to be part of the team that does that?
McLean: I think the best part was the overall team finish and what we have been able to do as a class. It has been hard for us to break in and I was really proud of the way everybody swam. When your team does something like that, it is always the sweetest thing.
Question: What has this season has meant to you?
McLean: It was a great way to finish my fourth year. I am really proud of the entire team and I’m happy with the legacy I feel like our class has left. We went out on a good note and I hope the younger guys continue to build on that and go where I know this program is capable of going.
Question: What’s next for you?
McLean: I am going to continue swimming for as long as I can – it’s what I want to do. I want to keep going. I think I’ll be training out in Fullerton (Calif.) again with Jon Urbancheck, so I am excited about that. I’ll miss the guys here and the coaching staff a lot but that is a good place for me.
Question: Are you excited to see what you can do outside of the college ranks?
McLean: I am excited. I am going to miss it here but I am ready to take the next step. I am very thankful for this opportunity and I want to make the most of it and get the most out of it that I can.
Question: In your four years, the team won four ACC championships and finished in the top-10 at NCAAs three times. How hard is that to do?
McLean: It is challenging. It’s hard to look at it that way because the challenge is what I enjoy. I look forward to it every day and I look forward to doing it with my teammates and coaches. It’s difficult but at the same time those aren’t the first adjectives I would use. Every day I come in here and I absolutely love what I do.
Question: What are you going to miss the most about swimming at UVa?
McLean: I am going to miss the team camaraderie a lot. I am going to miss Mark (Bernardino) and the coaches. I just think about how tight the team is – we do everything together. But the nice thing is, I am going to be swimming with a group of guys out in Fullerton who thrive on the same things I do. It’s going to be a similar environment.
Question: Is there one moment that stands out for you?
McLean: Of course winning (the NCAA title in the 500) is one of them, but there are a lot of moments I am really proud of. There are some sets I am proud of and anything done with the team – team championships and relay championships. It was awesome to win something individually but when you do something great with some of your closest friends – who are basically your family – that is really special. And all the jokes and laughing during hard practices.
Question: What advice would you give to future UVa swimmers?
McLean: I would love to see them continue building on what we’ve started to lay the foundation for. Stay focused. Swim for your team, swim for your family. Work hard. Live your dash.
Question: What do you like to do for fun?
McLean: We play some video games, a little Call of Duty. I play a lot of guitar. Once it gets a little warmer we’ll play beach volleyball out on the new courts and I’ll try to get my bronze on and get ready for California.