Feb. 12, 2010
As a freshman at UC Santa Barbara, Anne Marie May wasn't sure if she could successfully compete at the collegiate level. Maybe that's because she was playing the wrong sport.
May was originally recruited to play water polo at UCSB, but as a multi-sport athlete in high school with only limited experience in water polo, she was having a hard time jumping in at such a high level of competition. Then she decided to give swimming a try.
Four years of hard work later, May has become one of the best swimmers in the nation. In fact, she is currently ranked number one in the NCAA in the 50 meter freestyle.
She holds the UCSB and Big West records in the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle, along with being part of the school and conference records in four out of the five relays.
In only a few years of training, May has realized her potential as a world class athlete. In 2008, she finished 14th in the 50 freestyle event at the Olympic Trials, racing alongside swimming legends like Dara Torres.
"It was probably the most fun I've ever had at a swim meet, and there were a ton of Gaucho representatives there to share the experience with me," May said.
May has worked closely with her teammates and coaches, especially sprinting coach Naya Higashijima. She credits the team atmosphere and mutual dedication as one of the strongest motivating factors.
"Everyone is working for everyone else," she said. "We have a saying, `Only Gauchos beat Gauchos.' Even though swimming is an individual sport, we really don't approach it that way in this program, which I think is one of the reasons we've been so successful."
May has not only led by example in the water, but she has shown extraordinary leadership outside the pool as well. On top of being co-captain of the team, the two-time NCAA All-American is also the Gauchos' Big West Female Scholar Athlete.
Head coach Gregg Wilson recognizes how lucky he has been to have such an incredible swimmer literally come out of the stands and develop into the dominant force that she is today.
"She's so sweet and so nice, until you have to swim next to her," Wilson said. "There are a lot of opposing coaches who will be glad to see her go."
2010 is May's last year as a Gaucho, and whether or not she continues to compete as a world class athlete, there is no shortage of supporters who know she will be successful in life.
Wilson added, "She's an excellent representative of our department, our campus, and our conference. Everyone who meets her realizes that."
Anne Marie May recently took the opportunity to answer some questions about herself.
1. What are you favorite things to do when you're not swimming?
"Hang out with my friends, spend time outside in the sun, cook, and watch food network."
2. If you were on a deserted island and could only bring three things what would they be?
"My mom, my iPhone, and water."
3. What is your favorite class you've taken at UCSB? Favorite Professor?
"My favorite classes have been anatomy of the musculoskeletal system, family communication, and care and prevention of athletic injuries. My favorite professor at UCSB is Jim Romeo, hands down! But I also really like Debra Lieberman, Michael Petracca, and Tammy Afifi."
4. If you were an animal what would you be?
5. What is the best part about waking up in Santa Barbara every day?
"The fresh air and the sound of the ocean coming through my window."
6. Where is your favorite place to swim?
"Campus pool! But other than that, the pool that was set up for Olympic Trials at the Qwest center in Omaha was incredible."
7. What will you miss the most about life at UCSB after you graduate?
"Having all of my friends as neighbors and being able to see them every day."
8. If you could interview anyone, who would it be and what would you ask him/her?
"I would interview Dara Torres, and ask her how she has made so many comebacks and been so successful at every stage in her swimming career."
9. What is your favorite thing to do on an off day?
"Sleep in and relax."
10. What is your best memory at UCSB?
"Doing anything and everything with my best friends Betsy, Bobbie, and Mollie."
11. Who is your favorite musician/band?
"I love Rancid, Jay-Z, Incubus, Led Zeppelin, and Bob Marley, but I like pretty much all music."
12. Do you have any pre-race rituals?
"Not really, but I have to talk to Naya (my coach) no matter what... She has to talk me out of being too nervous or I can't survive!"
13. What is your favorite place to eat in Isla Vista?
"Trop brunch, if that counts..."
14. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
"Somewhere tropical and warm."
15. What are your plans after graduation?
"To work with people, maybe in hospitality, personal training and wellness, real estate, or marketing."
16. What is your favorite sport to watch other than swimming?
"Men's volleyball or basketball."
17. Who is your favorite author? Favorite books?
"Gabriel Garcia Marquez might be my favorite author... Love in the Time of Cholera is one of my top picks."
18. What is one thing about you that most people do not know?
"I took 7 years of Japanese from middle school through high school. I can still read and write it, and speak it a little bit."
19. Is there a motto that you live by?
"Pursue your ambition without inhibition."
20. In one word, how would you describe UCSB swimming?