On Campus: Williams Senior Alex Wentworth-Ping

By Brian Savard

SELINSGROVE, Pennsylvania, August 30. NEXT up in the On Campus profile series of Division III swimmers is Williams College senior Alex Wentworth-Ping. Wentworth-Ping competed in the 2007 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III Swimming and Diving Championships, swimming the 50 freestyle (22.27, 45th place), the 100 butterfly (49.69, 9th place) and the 200 butterfly (1:50.72, 3rd place). Additionally, Wentworth-Ping competed on the Williams College 400 medley relay (5th, 3:22.69), splitting a 49.21 on the butterfly leg of the relay.

Where is your hometown?
My mother, originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina, met my father, who is from Sheffield, England, while he was working as a hotel manager in Bermuda. They married there and then later, after my mother became pregnant with me, returned to New York City where I was born. I lived in Manhattan and Queens up until I was 5 and a half, at which time my parents divorced and my mother got offered a job to return back to Bermuda with some family friends. My mother is a clinical psychologist. I have lived in Bermuda ever since.

When I finished middle school in Bermuda, my mother and I decided to look into boarding school in the US as an option. We did this not only because the education is fantastic at prep schools, but also because I wasn't being challenged as much as I should have been in Bermuda and additionally a lot of my friends were planning on leaving to go to those schools as well.

After looking at all of the best schools such as Deerfield, St. Paul's, Exeter, I finally decided on Choate Rosemary Hall as the best one. Choate is located in Wallingford, Ct. I chose to go there and I loved it. I started playing water polo during my freshman year there and played basketball during the winter and then rowed crew in the spring.

It was not until my junior year in 2002-03 at Choate that I joined the swim team, after being cut from the JV basketball team. Looking back on it, the fact that I was cut was certainly a blessing in disguise, given what I have accomplished in swimming since that time. Less than two months before the New England Prep School championships that year, my first year ever swimming competitively, I learned to do the butterfly for the first time. I placed sixth that year and then went on to place second in my senior year with a final time of 52.95.

To get back to the question though, I guess I have been all over the place. I would call myself an American that calls Bermuda home but went to prep-school and so hasn't lived in Bermuda full time since he was 13.

What is your major?
I am a philosophy major. I have taken a few classes recently that have focused on the power of the mind and concentration. This past spring, I took a philosophy class that focused on Buddhist philosophy. As a part of the class, I was required to practice regular meditation. We talked in class several times about the power of the mind to create more pressure, stress and meaning to situations than there really is.

The reason I say this, of course, is because I believe it really helped my swimming. I was able to relax and meditate before my races to simply concentrate on what I was going to do. During nationals, after qualifying fifth in prelims for the 200 fly, there were so many reasons for me to choke. It could have been so easy for me to tell myself, "I have to do well. I have to place fifth or higher. I have to win." All of these things distract you from enjoying the moment and just swimming without thinking about it. I have found that when you can swim free of thought, you are able to do your best.

So my interest in philosophy has really been central to my success.

Additionally, I am concentrating (minoring) in International Studies. I am also pursuing a Spanish certificate. This is based on my interest in Spanish/Hispanic/Latino culture and the Spanish language. I actually went to Buenos Aires, Argentina last year from July 15-December 10.

What was crazy about my season last year was that I missed so much of the season training with the Williams squad. While I was in Argentina I did work out, lift and occasionally swim, but it was not until I got back to school that I really started training hard. Once I returned from Argentina, I went right up to Williams to train for a few days before the annual training trip to Fort Lauderdale that the Williams team does every year.

Once in Fort Lauderdale, I told Coach Kuster to just kill me and that's what he did. I trained as hard as I ever have and then continued that throughout the January training period. I could never have imagined doing as well as I did at the beginning of the season. Coming back from being abroad, I tried to have low expectations for myself. It was just amazing to me to come third nationally in the 200 butterfly and be a two-time All-American when I didn't even train for a full season.

In this way, I guess my interest in Spanish that led me to going abroad last year contributed in a funny way to my success last year as well.

What is your GPA?
I currently have a 3.4 GPA. I was selected as an NESCAC All-Conference All-Academic.

What is your favorite movie?
It's probably a tie for me. I do have other favorites but these two are at the top of the list.

Forrest Gump and The Matrix

In terms of swimming, The Matrix is all about freeing your mind and letting go. It's about not having fear and by allowing yourself to become One with the world around you in the same way that Neo (an anagram for One) becomes one with the matrix and is able to manipulate it as he will. Two quotes I love from the movie that I have said to myself on several occasions while behind the block, "There is no spoon" and "You have to let it all go. Fear, doubt and disbelief. You have to free your mind." It just really inspires me to not be afraid to go for it when I swim.

Forrest Gump is just a great journey of someone's life and the innocence, honesty and genuineness of Forrest Gump in the movie always touched me.

What one song psyches you up the most before a race?:
I have actually recently stopped listening to music before I race. I've realized that I like to just take the atmosphere and the crowd in. I get more pumped up the more I feel in the moment.

With that said, if I ever was to listen to a song before I race, as I used to, it would have to be Thunderstruck by AC/DC. Probably the greatest pump up song ever made.

Activities on campus (other than swimming):
I was recently elected captain of the club water polo team. I have loved being a part of this team and it has always greatly helped my swimming before official training begins on November 1 in the NESCAC conference.

I am also a DJ for the College radio station WCFM. I really enjoy playing music and sharing my love of all types of music with the Williamstown community and beyond.

Collegiate awards won (both academic and athletic):
Honorable mention for All American in 2006 (for the 100 and 200 Butterfly) and 2007 (in the 100 Butterfly)
All-American in 2007 (for 200 Butterfly, placed 3rd and for 400 Medley Relay – Butterfly leg—placed 5th)
Academic All-American in 2006 and 2007
NESCAC All-Conference Academic in 2007
NESCAC All-Conference in 2006 and 2007
Named as a Williams college scholar Athlete
1st team All-Conference Water Polo team in 2005 and 2006
Elected Club Water Polo captain for 2007-2008 Season

Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?:
I really would like to go to law school after I graduate. I am applying in the fall and hopefully I will be able to get into a good school and go straight in. I am incredibly interested in international public policy and would really love to devote my life to helping people and improving the quality of life worldwide.

If I am not able to get into a good law school and go straight in, then I will look for a job in an international and legal-related field for a few years and then hopefully be able to reapply. After law school, I hope to be able to work for an international law firm that would allow me to gain some experience (and possibly pay off some loans.) After that I would really love to dedicate my life to working for an international organization like the United Nations, the World bank or perhaps an international non-profit like Amnesty International.

Due to the globalization of the world and recent world events, I really feel as though it is a necessary goal for the global community to come together to work towards a united vision of peace. I want to be a part of realizing that dream and I think I could represent people well in that endeavor as a lawyer with knowledge of the justice system that creates an equal playing field for all of humanity.

What made you choose the college that you attend?
Williams College jumped out at me from the first time that I visited. I walked on campus and after being at Choate Rosemary Hall, I really felt as though it was a bigger, better Choate experience. Given that I loved Choate so much, it seemed like an easy progression. Additionally, the fact that I would be able to swim at Williams was certainly important to me. Because I had only swum competitively for less than two years when I applied, I was really excited at the potential I had in the swimming pool and wanted to see what I could do.

I had applied to a bunch of the Ivy league schools and was rejected, but I did not care because my first choice had always been Williams. I was accepted into Georgetown and Johns Hopkins, and though Georgetown did seem to fit a lot of my career goals, I did not feel that it would have given me as enjoyable an undergraduate experience as Williams. To this day, I am still overjoyed that I got into Williams and can say that it is my school.

At what point in your swimming career did you realize your talent as an elite swimmer?
Part of me wants to say that I only realized it by the fact that you are contacting me to ask about my talent as an elite swimmer in Division III. I never take anything for granted and I do not really think about how talented I am relative to everyone else very much; I simply just swim and do my best and that's it. If my best is to make nationals, then that's great. If not, then that's great too. It's all a journey for me.

Additionally, because comparatively I have been swimming competitively for a lot less time than a lot of my teammates and other people in Division III, I don't think I have had too much time to reflect on my incredible success. The fact that you contacted me to ask makes me step back a little and think about what I've done and say to myself, "Wow, Alex, that's pretty damn good."

To be fair though and to answer your question a little more precisely, I guess I realized that I had reached a top level in swimming when I first qualified for nationals in 2006. To make the national championship meet was something quite incredible for me. I had never been to a meet like that before. I remember vividly when I stepped up to the block for my prelim swim for the 100 Butterfly and they announced, "Alexander Wentworth-Ping representing Williams College." That is just quite an amazing thing for me, to represent my college on the national stage. It was at that point that I realized I had reached a level that not many reach in their swimming careers and I had done in it in four years.

Then to come third this past year and become an individual All-American made me realize that I had reached an elite level. To stand on the podium and know that I had trained for several months less than most of the people at the meet because I was abroad and also that I had only been swimming for five years, it was hard not to think that I had found a sport that I had some talent for.

What are your goals for the 2007-08 season?
Really I just want to work hard and do my best. I am always happy no matter what the outcome as long as I know I worked hard.

With that said, I want to win the 100 and 200 Butterfly at the NESCAC conference meet and win the 100 and 200 Butterfly at the NCAA Division III championship meet.

What advice would you give to a high school swimmer with your talent looking at colleges?
I would say to that person that you should just go to a place where you will be happy and just work hard. Train hard and always keep your head in the right place. It's just about doing your best so don't get frustrated with times and places. If you have fun while training, the success you have in the pool will just come to you.

What is the most difficult challenge that you've had to overcome in your swimming career?
I think the biggest challenge came during my freshman year when my grandfather died two weeks before my conference swim meet. He lived in England so I had to fly there and back, missing a few days of training right before the big meet. I was very close with my grandfather and it was a challenge to come back and perform my best under the circumstances. I will never know if I underperformed at the conference meet because I had missed that time during my taper, but I know that I gave it my best and dealt with the situation the best way I knew how. I never regret any experience, but I will always look back on those few weeks as a difficult period for me to focus on my swimming.

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