Q&A With Alexandra Ellis
Oct. 7, 2009
BERKELEY - CalBears.com sat poolside with senior breaststroker Alexandra Ellis to discuss last year's NCAA championship season, prospects for this year and 'Dancing With the Stars.' The San Diego-product was a key member of Cal's national championship team, earning All-America honors as part of the Golden Bears' sixth-place finish in the 200-yard medley relay and second-place finish in the 400-yard medley relay.
She also garnered 2009 Pac-10 all-academic honorable mention and played a big role in Cal's first Pac-10 championship, swimming an NCAA B qualifying time of 16:18.84 in the 1650-yard freestyle to take fourth place in the conference meet. Ellis and the Bears will host Pacific on Saturday, Oct. 10, at 1 p.m. in their home-opening dual meet at Spieker Aquatics Complex.
CalBears.com: How is your senior season going so far?
Alexandra Ellis: It's going really well. It's going smoothly. We haven't had any bumps in the road.
CalBears.com: Can you describe your emotions when Cal won the NCAA championship last season?
AE: That was amazing because we didn't go into it focused on winning. We just went into it thinking we're going to have fun; we're going to show everyone what we've been doing this season. And we didn't have the smoothest season last year; we lost a few dual meets. Pac-10s was a surprise, and we go into NCs, and then we go into the last night. We thought, oh, wow, we can win this. The whole time we were just enjoying ourselves, and I think our swims reflected that.
CalBears.com: You set the school record of 2:09.51 in the 200-yard breaststroke with a 10th-place finish at NCAAs last year. Did you know it would be a special swim?
AE: No. What I was thinking then was that we were so close in the race with Arizona and Georgia that I just needed to win as many points as possible. Making consols (the consolation final) was already more points than I was expected to get, so I just wanted to help my team out.
CalBears.com: This year's season-opening Cal Poly meet consisted of swimming 100-yard events. When was the last time you competed in a meet like that?
AE: Not since age-group swimming. It was really nice to get out of the normal, dual-meet setup.
CalBears.com: You did not swim all five races at Cal Poly, right?
AE: I was ill, so I just swam one race just to get some racing in. I didn't want to push it. I'm doing well now. I'm just getting over another had week of school work and, sadly, the football loss to SC.
CalBears.com: Freshman teammate Caitlin Leverenz won the Cal Poly meet. As a fellow breaststroker, how good do you see her becoming at Cal?
AE: Caitlin is going to do amazingly well. She's already had such an accomplished career, and she hadn't even started college yet. I feel like there's still so much ahead of her. She's just at the beginning.
CalBears.com: How good is this year's team, especially with all the newcomers?
AE: Dana (Vollmer), Rog (Lauren Rogers) and Maddy (Madison Kennedy) were big scorers and great people to have on the team and we're great support. But I think one thing that makes us a good team is that, knowing we lost them, we know other people are going to have to step up and fill those shoes. We did get some great talent coming in, like Caitlin, Katie Kastes is a transfer, and others, that I think will really help our team to do well this year.
CalBears.com: Your grandfather, aunt and uncle all attended Cal. Was it a pretty big deal when you decided to go to Cal, too?
AE: My grandpa is ecstatic because he lives in Walnut Creek, and he comes to every swim meet. Even before when I started the college recruiting process, every summer I'd come visit him, and he'd say, 'Oh, let's go on a tour of Cal. Let's just show you what it's like.' Or he'd write things to me like, 'Oh, look what Cal did this season,' so I knew he was pushing for this school.
CalBears.com: You're from San Diego and have family in the Bay Area. Do your relatives attend many of your meets?
AE: They come to a good amount. I have family all around, so they came when I had NCs in Texas and other places. I have family up in Washington. I'm lucky I have a lot of support all around.
CalBears.com: Cal head coach Teri McKeever is known for coaching successful teams and individuals with innovative training techniques. How would you describe her?
AE: She is one who's not going to accept what's normal. She's willing to look outside the box and find new ways to do things, with thinking, training, everything.
CalBears.com: What are your hobbies?
AE: I love to scrapbook, read and just hang out with friends. I usually don't plan anything too much, since my life is usually so dictated by school and swimming. I usually go with the flow, and whatever comes along my way I do.
CalBears.com: Do you watch and vote for former Cal great Natalie Coughlin on 'Dancing with the Stars'?
AE: Oh, yeah. I've texted (votes) eight times every time. I've called and gone online (to vote). The swimming community is really small, so a lot of people from my club team will vote because they know I know her. I give her props, because I don't think I could do that on national television. I feel she'll do pretty well.