On Campus: Williams Senior Chris Millen

By Brian Savard

SELINSGROVE, Pennsylvania, August 31. THE On Campus series focuses its attention next on Williams senior Chris Millen. Millen represented the Ephs at the 2007 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III Swimming and Diving championships, placing eighth in the 200 IM (1:54.28), second in the 400 IM (3:58.26) and second in the 200 butterfly (1:49.88). He also swam the third leg on the second-place Williams 800 freestyle relay, splitting a 1:41.14. Millen earned three school records with silver-medal swims in the 200 butterfly, the 800 freestyle relay and the 400 IM.

Millen, a English and economics double major, comes from Richboro, Pa., a suburb of Philadelphia. He attended high school at Holy Ghost Prep, a class AA school in North Philadelphia. Millen earned a bronze medal at the Pennsylvania AA High School Championships his senior year in the 200 IM behind current senior college swimmers Alex Goldsmith of Yale and Chris Weitekamp of the University of Pennsylvania. Millen also placed fourth in the 500 freestyle.

What one song psyches you up the most before a race?
I try not to depend on music as a psych-up tool; if I do listen to anything, it's in order to keep me from thinking too much about my race.

Collegiate awards won (both academic and athletic):
Division III All-American

Where do you see yourself five years from now?
I'm still in denial about having only a year left of college, so I don't have a finite five-year plan. Hopefully, I'll be doing something enjoyable, as long as I'm not still living at home.

What made you choose the college that you attend?
I chose Williams because I felt I needed to go somewhere completely different from where I was. I wanted academics to be more important to me than they had been. The small size of the college really appealed to me, and I actually like that it's as isolated as it is. I drove up to get to know the team after I left Florida and was 100 percent sure that these were the kind of people that I wanted to finish college with.

At what point in your swimming career did you realize your talent as an elite swimmer?
I had my biggest breakthrough during the summer after my freshman year of high school, so that's when it got into my head that I could be good. That's when I really made the commitment to make the sacrifices to get faster.

I think people often confuse talent with work ethic because you can't tell which combination of the two a swimmer has simply from their times, and even though I will never consider myself to be naturally talented, that was the point at which I realized I had at least the potential to improve through hard work. It's also when I picked up the mile as one of my main events, and even though I don't do it anymore, training for it and doing lots of distance fly and IM sets made me tougher, so I had more confidence in myself and started to believe I could be good, which is really important, too. The training I had been doing in the senior group at my club team that year really took me to the next level, and it's been a pretty gradual climb since then.

What are your goals for the 2007-08 season?
I am going to drop all of my times from last year, especially my 200 free for the relay. And I'm looking to improve my backstroke and breaststroke, because that's the weak half of my IM.

My main goal, however, is to be happy with how I swim both in-season and tapered, because NCAAs was disappointing for me after how well I had swum in dual meets and at my conference meet last season. I want to end this year on a good note and, of course, have fun sharing it with my teammates.

What advice would you give to a high school swimmer with your talent looking at colleges?
Keep an open mind because you can miss out on a great school you might really love by generalizing and not paying attention to the things that really make it special. Go somewhere where you'll be challenged but comfortable, both in the classroom and in the pool. Find a close team that you genuinely like, that shares your goals and interests, and will motivate you to be better, not just for yourself, but for your teammates, too.

Make sure you can train and compete as much as you want, and find a program you won't grow out of. Choose a school that fits you academically, socially, and athletically, because if any of those three things doesn't work for you, it will be hard to compensate with the other ones—I learned that lesson the hard way. Most importantly, though, choose a school and a team where you know you'll have fun, because you're only young and in college once.

What is the most difficult challenge that you've had to overcome in your swimming career?
I hit a plateau my first two years of college. I didn't drop much time, even though I was training more than ever, and swimming wasn't as fun for me as it used to be. Between long course and short course, I'd had three mediocre seasons in a row and was in the middle of a fourth during my sophomore year. I had thought I just needed time to adjust to the program, but when I came back for my second year, nothing felt right about what I was doing. It was frustrating not to enjoy the sport that I loved so much while I was still putting in all the time and energy. I dreaded going to practice, and that was hard for me, because I'm definitely a trainer. When my shoulder started give me trouble and I had to take some time off that fall, I had to step back and evaluate where I was going with this. I knew that I definitely needed to move on, because I wasn't happy with my swimming, and that was combining with other things to create a really bad college experience for me. A coach who had worked with my club team had said, "If nothing changes, nothing changes." So I reprioritized; I made up my mind to finish out the year and find somewhere else. Starting over was kind of scary, but I knew it would be worth it, and now swimming is fun again.