March 20, 2013
BERKELEY - CalBears.com sat down with sophomore swimmer Melanie Klaren prior to the Cal team's trip to the NCAA Championships to discuss a variety of topics, including the Pac-12 Championships, what warm-up music she listens to and what she wants to do after graduating from Cal. The Golden Bears compete at the NCAA Championships starting on Thursday in Indianapolis; the national meet ends on Saturday.
At last year's NCAA Championships, the Laguna Niguel, Calif., product earned honorable mention All-America honors with a 12th-place finish in the 100-yard backstroke and a 10th-place finish in the 200 backstroke, as she and the Golden Bears won the 2012 national title. More recently, Klaren placed fourth in the 200 back, took fifth in the 100 back, finished ninth in the 500 freestyle and swam on Cal's second-place 800-freestyle relay at 2013 Pac-12s.
CalBears.com: How has the season gone so far, heading into NCAAs?
Melanie Klaren: Personally I've been very happy with my season. I think I've had a good progression - not just with times, but I've been getting better at little techniques, and there's still a lot of improvements I've been working on heading into NCs. Up until recently, it's pretty much gone the way I'd hoped it would. I'm looking forward to swimming even faster at NCs.
CalBears.com: Are people overlooking Cal - the two-time defending NCAA champion - as one of the favorites in Indianapolis, perhaps because of our finish at the Pac-12 Championships or our two dual-meet losses?
MK: I don't know that we're really being overlooked. But, I think in a way, we almost would like being overlooked a little bit, and it would put a fire under us to show people that we are here and we are the two-time defending national champions. We don't even really talk about winning at NCs. It's just about being our best. If it happens to be that we're the best team that weekend, then we'll be happy with that.
CalBears.com: You're qualified to swim in the 500 free and 100 and 200 backstrokes in Indianapolis. What relays might you swim?
MK: I was on the 800-free relay at Pac-12s, but we'll see if I'll swim that at NCs.
CalBears.com: What's your favorite event?
MK: The 200 back is probably my favorite event. It's on the last day, and the last morning is always pretty tough. It's not for the faint of heart.
CalBears.com: Is the nickname "Backstroke U." an accurate one for Cal, with the number of talented backstrokers - including Cindy Tran, Rachel Bootsma, Elizabeth Pelton, Stephanie Au and you - on the roster?
MK: You can't have four people in the top 10 of the 100 backstroke heading into NCs and not say that we're a backstroke team. I'm not sure if Stephanie Au or I were recruited as backstrokers, but something special happens here. Our backstroke group is pretty tight.
CalBears.com: It was standing-room only for the Big Meet against Stanford on Feb. 16 at Spieker Aquatics Complex. Cal of course won the meet, which was televised on the Pac-12 Networks. How much does a big crowd like that boost the team?
MK: I don't think I've ever seen a dual meet as crowded or as high energy as it was here. It just pumped us up even more to swim faster. The crowd, having the men's team here and the alums - that was all just huge.
CalBears.com: We finished in third place overall at Pac-12s, but was it encouraging that we won seven events?
MK: We kept Pac-12s in perspective. It wasn't about winning the meet. Everybody swam amazing and everybody progressed. It was just a good meet for us. At the end of the day we couldn't really be upset that we got third, because everyone just had such a great meet and it was a great time for the team. Winning the events and just everyone stepping up in different ways was really cool to see. Overall we were extremely happy with how we did at Pac-12s.
CalBears.com: What kind of warm-up music do you listen to before meets?
MK: I listen to a lot of remixes. Melissa Bates on the team shows me some really good mixes that she seems to find. It's usually pretty up-tempo; anything with dubstep in it just to get me going. It usually changes depending on the meet, but I'm really into Ellie Goulding or Waka Flocka Flame.
CalBears.com: What's your favorite movie?
MK: "Pride and Prejudice."
CalBears.com: What's your favorite TV show?
MK: I'm really into "New Girl" and "How I Met Your Mother."
CalBears.com: How does Berkeley compare to your hometown of Laguna Niguel?
MK: I was born in northern California and spent the first half of my life here. But I consider myself from southern California. It's just a different way of life. People drive faster in southern California; it's very quick moving. I love the City; it reminds me a lot of home almost. It's just different. It's kind of laid-back, to me at least, coming from Orange County. It's very different from any other place that I've been.
CalBears.com: What's your major, and what do you want to do after you graduate from Cal?
MK: I'm a history major. I think I'm going to do an emphasis in 19th-century Britain. But after I'm done here, I want to go to grad school and be a book editor. That's something I'm looking into. When I'm done swimming maybe I'll intern at publishing companies.
CalBears.com: Why does that field interest you?
MK: I really just enjoy reading, and nothing bothers me more than when I see a typo in a book. I just thought that would really be cool to do - to have my job be reading, which some people don't get. But I think it's cool.
CalBears.com: Has Cal - from academics to athletics and everything in between - been everything you expected it to be?
MK: It's been more than what I expected. We all come in with an idea of what Cal is and what the culture of the team is. But not until you get here do you really get what it's about and what the high level of excellence that we hold each other to is. I've grown so much as a person from my freshman year to now, in terms of being responsible and being accountable. Not even swimming-wise; I'm most proud of who I've become in the past almost two years here at Cal.