Sophomore backstroker Matt Murray makes his NCAA Championships debut this week when the 10th-ranked Virginia men's swimming team heads to the national meet in Minneapolis Thursday through Saturday. Preliminaries begin at 12 p.m. central each day with finals at 7 p.m. central. The Friday and Saturday night sessions will be live streamed on www.ESPN3.com. Murray, a native of Saratoga, Calif., recently sat down with VirginiaSports.com to talk about NCAAs, the ACC Championships last month, his favorite event to swim and his major at UVa.
Question: What were the ACC Championships like for you?
Murray: For me, this year, my main focus was just filling the shoes of Eric Olesen. I was deemed Eric Olsen 2.0 from the start of last year. So I knew I had to pretty much do exactly what he did or better. That meant finaling in both the 100 fly and 100 back, and then the 200 back, that has been really strong for me this whole year, so I knew I would do well in that. I was pretty happy with my performance. The 200 back could have been a little bit better but I am happy I have another opportunity. I was very pleased with both 100s and the relay wasn't even hard, even though it was my fifth event of the day. I was pretty much running on all emotion. Mark (Bernardino) told me before that I was going to be tired but to just swim for the V on my chest. It was a courage swim and that is kind of how I went about it. Sending the fourth years off was nice - that championship was fun. Mark told us to enjoy it and soak it all in because you forget about it. You can get lost.
Question: What have you done since ACCs to prepare for the NCAA Championships?
Murray: Since it's a pretty small group we have just been spending a lot of time together in and out of the pool; bonding a lot. I think that will help us just with our chemistry. We are a very close team but it's been nice to have fun together. The pressure is totally different at NCAAs and I think I'll notice that once I'm at the meet as well. We've just been enjoying it.
Question: What is your mentality going into your first national meet?
Murray: We are just swimming to have fun and go fast. At ACCs, you're swimming with a little more pressure because everyone is after you. At NCAAs, I know my mentality is just to enjoy it. I am excited to swim against some of my friends from California who are on other teams and made the meet for the first time. It will be nice to swim with them - my first time swimming against them.
Question: Have the upperclassmen given you any advice going into NCAAs?
Murray: I learn a lot just by watching. I live with Scot (Robison) this year so I have really been following him and going off his lead. I hung out a lot with Eric (Olesen) last year so anything I have questions about, I look to them and see what to do and how to act. They are all pretty relaxed.
Question: How did you end up at UVa?
Murray: I took a few trips to California schools and looked at them but I was looking for a Division I swimming school that was top-15. So that narrowed down to Cal, Stanford and USC on the west coast, a few schools in the Midwest and then Virginia was my east coast school. I came here and just loved it - it was my first trip.
Question: What is your favorite event to swim?
Murray: 100 back. It's just faster and you kind of go. You don't think, you just race. In the 200 you kind of have to hold yourself back the first 50 or so. You don't want to go out too fast, you don't want to go too slow. You just have to think too much.
Question: Have you declared a major yet?
Murray: I am a history major. I've always been kind of interested it in and then I came here, and you just kind of get immersed in it. In California, you don't feel that at all. But it's really cool stuff.
Question: What has been your favorite class at UVa?
Murray: I have been asked that before and I feel like it usually is whatever class I happen to be in at the moment. I took a few philosophy classes that I've had interest in and one was on medical practices. I took military history class last semester and that was pretty interesting. The cool thing about that was it's all right here. We took a trip to Manassas (Va.) to see the battlefield. You can really feel it.
Question: What do you like to do for fun?
Murray: I do different stuff here than I do at home. At home I have a lot more freedom and time to go to the beach, go skiing or golfing. I love being outdoors. Here, I play a lot of video games with Scot - Gran Turismo, Call of Duty. We drive around or just hang out.