BY JIM RUSNAK//Director of Media Properties
If you’re a swimmer, you’ve probably had that dream. You know the one.
You’re about to swim the finals of the 100m freestyle. You look to your left. There’s Ryan Lochte. To your right, Matt Grevers.
You look down the row of swimmers getting ready to step up on the blocks. Everyone in this race – Ervin, Adrian, Phelps, Feigen, Dwyer – has won an Olympic medal. Everyone except you.
Last night, Seth Stubblefield lived your dream.
Stubblefield, of California Aquatics, is no slouch. Heading into his senior year at the University of California, he’s finished fifth in the 50y free and seventh in the 100y free at NCAAs, and has won two NCAA team titles as a member of the Golden Bears.
He was a Junior National Champion in the 100m and 200m butterflies in 2010, and competed in the 2010 Junior Pan Pacific Championships, where he took silver in the 200m fly and gold in the 400 free relay.
He also finished third in the 100m free at the 2013 U.S Open.
But last night’s final of the men’s 100m free was a whole new level for Stubblefield. He went up against a field of seven of the aforementioned Olympians. Between them, they have won almost 50 Olympic medals, and each of them has won an individual medal at either the Olympics or World Championships.
He finished eighth, but learned a lot from the experience. He took some time today to answer some questions about it:
Coming into this meet, what do you think your biggest accomplishment has been to this point?
Stubblefield: Honestly, just being a part of two NCAA Championship-winning teams my freshman year and last year. I think that’s just a testament to our team, and how we are able to feed off each other and stay hungry in that way. Individually, I’d have to say last night was a pretty big one. Just being in that big-boy heat. I was in my hotel room just looking at some statistics, and there was like 47 Olympic medals in that heat, and I was like, “That’s unreal.” It was pretty cool just to have the opportunity to race the best.
Talk a little bit about your personal goals coming into this meet. What are you looking to accomplish here?
Stubblefield: I’m just looking to do the best I possibly can. Making teams is the goal for pretty much everyone here, but really, just going out there and giving it my all, racing my best and seeing the rewards for all the work we put in this year, and seeing how it comes into play. Just cheering these guys on and seeing the Cal Bears do what we do. Hopefully we’ll have the energy and motivation to get people on teams.
How has training with the likes of Nathan Adrian and Anthony Ervin prepared you for a race like last night’s? That had to have helped a little bit.
Stubblefield: Absolutely. Just having that wealth of knowledge and experience on the pool deck every day, you’d be a fool not to utilize that to try to make yourself better, and hopefully I help them get better in my own way. Going into the ready room last night, with seven Olympians, it can be kind of nerve-racking. Then I looked around, and I see Tony and Nathan in there, and it’s very calming. I get to swim against those guys every day, and it’s just a reminder that I do belong there. That’s very reassuring and very calming.
So you step up last night, and you’re between Grevers and Lochte, and of course the five other guys are up there. What’s that like?
Stubblefield: Really cool. It’s pretty crazy. When the announcer was going through the list, he got to Michael (Phelps) and was like, “the most decorated Olympian of all time.” Then Matt (Grevers) or someone, and was like, “four-time Olympic medalist.” Then he gets to me, and it’s like, “All-American.” Lochte’s won like six gold medals. It’s just really cool. I don’t know. We’re at this elite level, and just being able to be with those guys and take that next step and get that experience to hopefully put myself in that position for Rio in a couple years (is great). Just to be able to race the absolute best is really cool.
How do you think that experience last night is going to benefit you going forward?
Stubblefield: It’s going to help tremendously. I was talking to (coach Dave Durden) about it. I don’t think I was mentally prepared going into that race last night. I think I kind of let those seven other guys get in my head a little, and I kind of based my strategy on what they were doing, rather than just focusing on myself. I think that was one of the reasons I just kind of “flied and died.” Every time you get the opportunity to race those guys, it can’t do anything but help you in some way. You’re going to learn a lot – just seeing all the small things, like how they act in the ready room and how they present themselves on the awards stand, and how they interact with fans. Just the small things that will help you get to the next level.
What did you learn about yourself with last night’s swim?
Stubblefield: I learned that I’m a lot more mature than I was a few years ago, but I also have a lot of room to grow in a lot of different areas. Having races like that and having that experience is something that I definitely need to work on, and something that I need to gather the next couple years. Also, I just need to get better at handling my emotions.