Today, we have women's swimmer Presley Bard, a former college All-American and U.S. National Team swimmer in the 100-meter backstroke. Bard is taking part in her first set of competitions with USC after transferring from Indiana following the 2008 season. At the Pac-10 championships last month, she broke two individual school records in the 50-yard freestyle (with a time of 22.26) and the 200-yard back (1:51.80).
As part of an ongoing look into the non-revenue sports at USC, we're doing a series of one-one-one interviews with prominent Trojans in some of the other sports around campus, like swimming, track and field, and tennis.
Now, Bard looks to lead the Women of Troy to a top-five finish at the NCAA Championships, which run from Thursday-Saturday at Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind. The junior sat down on a rare break from practice to discuss an improving USC squad, developing as a swimmer over a long break, the differences in lifestyle between Los Angeles and Bloomington, and more:
Question: You took a lot of time off from swimming, last competing with Indiana in 2008 and sitting out three semesters before finally swimming for USC this spring. Was it hard to wait all that time — did it lessen your enthusiasm for the sport at all?
Bard: Once I got back in the pool and started racing again, I started to get really excited. I think that's contributed a little bit to my success this year. I consider myself more of a racer than a trainer, so being out of competition for so long was a real challenge for me. There's some people that are just exceptional at training. I've never been that great at training, so my confidence really comes from racing, and I was lacking a little bit of that confidence. I never thought that I'd be excited for another year of swimming, but USC's just put a whole new spin on it for me.
Question: What was the adjustment process like, switching from Indiana to USC in the spring of 2009? You seem to have great relationships with your teammates now, but did that take some time to develop?
Bard: Yeah. It took longer to make the bonds than it had in Indiana, just because when you're a freshman you have a whole class of girls that are all trying to make friends and you're living in the dorms with them, whereas here I came in as a junior and I was kind of on my own so it definitely took a while to feel that team unification. But when the new freshmen came in in the fall and it was like a fresh start, that's when things really came together for me and I started to feel like I belonged to a team again.
Question: Did you ever reach a point where you questioned your decision to transfer?
Bard: I'm not going to lie, I did ask myself that a couple times. I was just like, 'I don't know if this is right, should I have stuck it out?' But now I have no regrets, no second questions, at all. Really, at USC, is the first time I can honestly say I love swimming and I enjoy going to practice. It's just fun.
Question: You're a backstroker by trade, but you've done some freestyle swimming this season as well as other strokes, including medley relays. Have you found it to difficult to balance doing these multiple events at the same time?
Bard: I like to think that in swimming it's better to have a variety of races that you're good at, just because if you can compete in relays and you can score in all your other individual events then you can contribute that much more to the team. I definitely think it's possible to be just as good in multiple events. I just feel lucky because I have the luxury of being like, 'Oh, I want to be in short sprints today,' or, 'Oh, I want to be in long sprints today.'
Question: What's the level of competition like in daily practices with the Women of Troy?
Bard: I have amazing teammates to swim against — Haley Anderson, Katinka Hosszu, Lyndsay DePaul — they're top in the country. You can ask anybody at any school about those three swimmers and they'll know who you're talking about. Having them to train with is really helpful.
Question: Last year, USC finished ninth at the NCAA Championships led by — among others — Olympic gold medalist Rebecca Soni. With Soni and others gone, why are expectations higher?
Bard: This year, we still have a lot our top guns, but we have more depth. There's just a lot more elite level athletes on the team this year.
Question: At Purdue, you're going to be pretty close to where you were at in Indiana. It probably will be pretty cold. Are you happy with the weather you're dealing with here as opposed to back in the Midwest?
Bard: The Southern California weather is so nice. Sometimes, I'm like, 'Is it really February or March?' It doesn't even feel like it at all. I wore a two-piece to practice a few weeks ago and I was thinking, 'If I was in Bloomington, I'd first of all be swimming indoor and there'd be snow outside, and people would look at me like I was crazy.' But that's the advantage of being outdoors and being in Southern California — you get wonderful weather all year long.
Bard is among the top-four qualifiers in three different NCAA events. Preliminary heats begin tomorrow at 11 a.m.
Next up in the series is men's swimmer Clement Lefert, a 22-year-old freshman and a participant in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Lefert, a fly and free specialist and the men will take part in next weekend's men's NCAA Championships on the campus of Ohio State.