June 12, 2008
BERKELEY, CALIF. - It's a wonder Justin Pollard has any time to sleep.
Not only does he compete in a sport - swimming - that demands 6 a.m. practices followed by afternoon workouts, but he is intimately involved in Cal's Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) and has maintained a 3.9 GPA as an economics major.
A senior from San Jose, Pollard is considered one of the hardest-working members of the team and last season had the team's second-fastest time in the 200 butterfly (1:46.53), behind only NCAA champion Patrick O'Neil. Pollard narrowly missed qualifying for the NCAA meet, but still earned the team's Most Improved Award. This year, along with the other 10 seniors, he has helped usher in new head coach David Durden.
"David (Durden) is a great coach," said Pollard, who was recently chosen as the Pac-10's representative to NCAA SAAC to discuss issues that affect student-athletes. "He is great at communicating and motivating. I wouldn't be telling you the truth if I said I wasn't a little nervous when we were going through the hiring process ... but now there is no question the program is doing really well."
Pollard joined the squad in 2004, then led by Nort Thornton, on the advice of Gerald Macedo, whose son, Matt, was an All-American swimmer at Cal from 1999-02. Pollard swam for the elder Macedo at the Almaden Swim and Racquet Club.
"Justin is someone whose success is geared to how hard he works," said Thornton. "And I am sure he is the same way with his academics. He is the type of guy who will make a list and get things done. He is the type of guy coaches love."
A two-time Pac-10 All-Academic selection, Pollard has also been honored twice with the Alumni Leadership Scholarship and the swim team's Golden Bear Award for having the highest GPA on the squad. Over the course of his Cal career, he has received all As, except for a B in Math 1B his first semester as a freshman and a B+ this past fall in one of his favorite classes, International Monetary Economics.
Even with a full plate of athletics and academics, Pollard is equally as passionate about his involvement with SAAC. Embracing SAAC's community service efforts, he is one of the program's leading organizers for this spring's College Sports Day.
"College Sports Day will be on April 6 at Maxwell Family Field and it will have a carnival-like theme," said Pollard. "As many teams as we can get will set up booths and allow the local youths to try their hand at those sports. The kids will also get a chance to have autographs signed and to interact with the players. This is a win-win situation for both the local youth of the East Bay and Cal Athletics, as well as for the whole university. A lot of the projects SAAC is in involved with are working with children. Another part is promoting student-athlete awareness and building a good reputation for student-athletes on campus."