Q and A With National Champion Swimmer Alex Beyer
By Sean Wallis
Sports Information Student Assistant
Washington University in St. Louis
OK, let’s not beat around the bush. In May you’ll graduate as one of the most (if not THE most) decorated swimmer in Washington University history. You are an individual NCAA national champion and record holder, have two individual NCAA runner-up finishes, three other top-10 NCAA finishes, and seven WU records. When you got here four years ago—is that how envisioned your career unfolding?
AB: When I came here I didn’t really know what to expect. In high school I was a breaststroker and sprinter. When I came to Washington University, coach Brad Shively took one look at me and put me in the 400 IM. I never thought I would end up swimming the 500 free or the 400 IM.
You are only the third individual national champion in the program’s history—what was it like to touch the wall and look up at the board and see the first-place finish and your record-breaking time?
AB: Last years 400 IM was a great race. Both Keith Diggs (the 2008 national champion) and I knew that it would take a national record to win the event. It was the best race I had ever been in. After the finish, I was so tired I could barely crawl out of the pool. Winning feels great, but last years’ 400 IM is in the past and there is a lot of work I need to do this year in order to repeat. I would like to break my record this year.
The average sports fan really doesn’t understand how much time swimmers put into their training and meet preparation. During the course of one week in the fall, how many hours are you spending in the pool and how many hours are you spending working out on land?
AB: We train as much as is legally allowed by the NCAA. We practice 20 hours a week; six main practices that are two hours in the pool and 30 minutes on land, and three morning workouts that are an hour on land and an hour in the pool. I also try to spend an addition 15-30 minutes a day working on flexibility and injury prevention.
In addition to all your accolades in the pool, you were the first WU male swimmer named to the first-team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America Team for your work in the classroom. Was that as gratifying as some of your swimming awards?
AB: It is difficult for all student-athletes to balance both athletics and academics. Last year our men’s team had the best GPA in the nation, and we are very proud of that honor. I think that it is a testament to our athletes and to Washington University that so many athletes have succeeded both on the field and in the classroom. The entire organization helps support athletics and makes academics manageable.
What’s your favorite race to swim in and why?
AB: The 800 free relay. The relays are the most exciting events because it is a team event. The relays always bring the best out of our swimmers, and they are extra motivated. Also, anything can happen on the relay. Last year our captain Kevin Leckey dropped two seconds from his best time to out touch three other schools and take third place. That was the most exciting race I have ever been part of. Also, relays count for more points than individual events, so they are more important for team standings.
Coach Shively said this year’s motto is “To go somewhere you have never been, you need to do something you have never done.” Where are you trying to go individually and as a team—and what are you doing that you’ve never done?
AB: This year the men’s team goal is to place top four at nationals and to place second at UAA’s. To place second at UAAs, we will need every man to score and to drop best times. We only have 17 men going to UAAs, while most other teams will bring the full 22. This puts us at a disadvantage, but if we have high quality finishes we can place second. For NCAAs, we will need to qualify all the relays and at least 8-10 swimmers to place in the top-eight. There is a lot of work left to do on that front but I am confident that we will qualify at UAAs.
This year I have been focusing more on my sprinting. We graduated some good seniors last year and it is up to the entire team to step up and replace what those seniors brought to our relays.
It is always hard to set goals before the season because I can only control what I do. I have no control over how other people swim. My goal this year is to win all three of my individual events at NCAAs and to break the national record in all three.
You’re from Seattle, Wash.–how hard was it explaining to friends and people from home that you were going to school at a school named Washington University in St. Louis?
AB: Everyone thinks I go to Washington State or the University of Washington. The most common question I get is, “Why is it called Washington University if it’s not in Washington?” Apparently people forgot that Washington existed as a president before a state.
When you arrived at WU, you noted your chief ambition to be a sports medicine doctor? After graduating from WU in May with a degree in Biology what’s your plan?
AB: Hopefully I will be going to medical school next year. I am still waiting to hear back from a number of places.