The Morning Swim Show, Nov. 11, 2011: Breeja Larson Talks About Health Scare That Kept Her Out of Nationals

PHOENIX, Arizona, November 11. BREEJA Larson has traveled a tough road to becoming the fastest collegiate breaststroker so far this season, and on today's edition of The Morning Swim Show, she talks about the health scare that briefly sidelined her this summer.

Larson also discusses how training has changed in the past year and how she views her new status as frontrunner. Watch the full show in the video player below and visit SwimmingWorld.TV for more video interviews.

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Show Transcript: (Note: This is an automated service where some typos and grammatical errors may occur.)

Jeff Commings: It's Friday, November 11th 2011 and this is The Morning Swim Show. I'm your host Jeff Commings and today in the FINIS monitor we'll be joined by Texas A&M sophomore Breeja Larson, who is the fastest breaststroker in the collegiate ranks right now. Breeja joins us from College Station, Texas. Hi, Breeja, good to see you again. How are you doing?

Breeja Larson: Good. How are you?

Jeff Commings: I'm doing well, thanks. So at the meet last weekend against Texas you went 59.7 in the 100 breast, 2:10 200 breast – were you expecting to swim that fast?

Breeja Larson: You know I was expecting to swim about the same for the 200. I was really shocked to see the 100 time, but obviously I was really happy with it. I was a little nervous going in because Texas is a really tough competitor and Laura Sogar is a really good racer and I was really happy to race against her, to give me that motivation to go faster, and so I wasn't expecting to go quite that fast but I was really happy with the results.

Jeff Commings: Yes, I'm sure Laura kind of helped to push you a little bit along but you've got to be just as shocked as probably a lot of people are that you went under a minute. I mean you're about a second slower than your lifetime best, right?

Breeja Larson: Yes.

Jeff Commings: That's saying a lot for this time of the season. So for those two swims I don't know if you know but we gave you our Performance of the Week honors so congratulations for that.

Breeja Larson: Well thank you.

Jeff Commings: Now two weeks ago you went 1:00.07 and 2:10.3 I believe against Missouri. What did you do to help you swim faster from one week to the next, taking out the factor that you had a tougher competitor?

Breeja Larson: Well to be honest at the Missouri meet for the 100, the meet was going by a lot faster than I thought it would and I thought there was an extra two heats before my race. And I was warming up and one of my teammates was like "Breeja, you're up right now" and I'm like "Oh, all right." So I ran over and they gave me about 10 seconds to collect it and we raced and I saw my time and I got really excited. I didn't expect to go that fast. It felt pretty easy – I didn't feel like I was going super fast – and so I thought for the Texas meet maybe if I take it out a little bit faster and keep it strong then I might go a little faster than that. This makes me really excited though because like I would start out with really high goals and to be able to accomplish those goals so early in the season was really exciting and for the 200 the same – I was just shocked. For the 200 against Texas my split times weren't quite as even as the Missouri ones but Laura Sogar has really good splits and so I was really happy that I was racing next to her but my last 50 kind of dragged on a little bit and it was probably the most painful race from last year and this year but the times turned out very — and I was really, really happy to see the improvement between these two weeks.

Jeff Commings: Now all this fast swimming is coming a few months after you got sick and you had to withdraw from Nationals. I would imagine everything's back to normal now?

Breeja Larson: Yes, it was a scare. Throughout the summer there were a lot of health concerns but it turned out to be fine. And I think that kind of messed with me more emotionally and mentally than physically and because it messed with me mentally it kind of put down my performance a bit, and so all summer it was kind of a juggle of whether or not I was going to Nationals. One week I was, the next week I wasn't, then I was again, and then I talked to my coach and he said "You know, are you excited about Nationals? Do you really feel like you can do well and I was really thinking about it, I was like I've had a great summer at home with all my friends and family and I wasn't that excited to go and I just felt like I would benefit more to stay home with my family and friends and just kind of go – I went to the Masters' Nationals or the Masters State Meet and that was really fun. And so I'm really happy the way the summer turned out but I'm really glad that I'm back in College Station training with Steve and Tanica again because it really helped me jumpstart to where I want to go.

Jeff Commings: Do you know what the cause of the illness was?

Breeja Larson: Yeah, it was a thyroid cancer scare. I'm not quite sure what caused it but I have three different lumps in my throat and they're benign now, so they're not cancerous, and we'll just check it yearly to make sure they stay that way. But it's not affecting the thyroid function and so I'm perfectly healthy, they're just three little friends that keep me company now.

Jeff Commings: Well I'm, glad to hear everything is back to normal. That could definitely put a cramp on things especially mentally. I can't imagine what was going through your mind but you definitely can't be concentrating on swimming knowing that something's going on.

Breeja Larson: Yes, it was really – I almost want to say life-changing. Everyone thinks they're Superman because – what's the word for it – to never think it would happen to them, it always happens to someone else and so when they said the word cancer it took me and I was like "How is that possible?" I eat really healthy, I exercise all the time – this doesn't happen to people like me. And so it was really a big changer in how I thought about life and like what I wanted to accomplish and then when I got the good news that it was benign it just made me think over "You know? I really need to take advantage of all the wonderful opportunities I have, just to have this opportunity to be at a school like this is incredible and not many girls get to experience this and so being able to have this opportunity I really thought I really do need to take full advantage of it. And so I've been training a lot harder this year just with bigger goal set in mind and it was really a good eye opener and it was almost a blessing in disguise to be able to do that as you have this chance, so take advantage of it.

Jeff Commings: And definitely I'm sure gives you a new outlook on life. Well, this time last year you were going quietly about your way, you were training hard – swimming pretty fast, not slow. Now it's safe to say I think a lot of people have their sights set on you. How does it feel like to be in that position?

Breeja Larson: It's pretty intimidating actually. It's interesting though because when I'm at the pool with my team training I'm going on faster intervals than I was last year and that makes me happy and so is everyone else and so I'm still kind of at the same placement and I really appreciate how I get the same treatment as a team as they did last year. It's kind of weird to think that people think of you in a different way just because you can swim a little bit faster. Like I still go through the same grilling hard workout as everyone else and I get treated the same. It was a little bit different seeing the reactions of the people when I went home like the little kids on the club team and how their eyes just like spark open. "Wow, I met her, it's so cool" and I think because of that I also look at that as a different way of I want to be the type of role model that people can say "I know her" because my role models going up were Christine Nelson – I think she's swims for Virginia right now, and Jessica Davis, who swims for Purdue they were just idols in my mind and they were so cool and Jessica Davis was really nice to me and she would see me at practice and give me hugs after my races and I just thought that was the coolest thing in the world.I was just amazed that someone so fast would just speak to me. I try really hard to stay humble and hungry – that's what my coach always told me – stay humble and hungry and just make sure that you're always nice to all the swimmers. And it makes a huge difference how you treat people especially when you get high up in the rankings for them to know that you're just a swimmer like they are, you make the meets just like they do and it really helps the outcome and keep your head clear when you're more humble about it.

Jeff Commings: Humble and hungry – I think I like that philosophy. I think that's a good way to live, a good way to live. Well, given the rollercoaster you've had this year in and out of the pool have you chosen a major yet?

Breeja Larson: Yes, actually this semester I'm looking into Psychology. I took a lot of different classes, and this is one that really interests me. And I think that I was struggling a lot with that this semester about thinking about what I wanted to do – I have no idea, and so I talked to my boyfriend and my mom and my family friends and stuff and they said "Well, stick with what you're good at" and I'll go "Well what am I good at?" and they're like "Swim." I'm like ‘Oh yes, I could do that." And so I'm thinking that maybe I – I don't know if I want to go into swim coaching but just something with athletics that I'm comfortable with and I thought that psychology must be a really good route to go seeing as how if I could do social psychology or sports psychology to kind of see how the mind and the behaviors of athletes are. Going through this myself will definitely help.

Jeff Commings: When's the next time the Aggies are going to swim?

Breeja Larson: Tennessee Invite this next week.

Jeff Commings: Well like I said everybody's got their sights set on you so they're going to be looking to see how you do, Breeja. Thanks so much for joining us again and being so open about the health issues that you had this past summer and again we're glad to see that everything's okay and you're back to normal.

Breeja Larson: Thank you.

Jeff Commings: All right, that's Breeja Larson joining us from College Station, Texas. That's going to do it for today's edition of The Morning Swim Show, have a great weekend. We'll see you back here on Monday.

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