UCLA's Beauchan Brings Swimming Skill From Hawaii
by Patricia Lee
Hawaii. A postcard-worthy, beautiful island surrounded my tropical trees and crystal clear blue water. The best surfers in the country, and even the world, are from Hawaii and the biggest competitions are held there. The whole state is associated with surfers and oceans.
So, maybe it's no surprise that one of the best swimmers on the UCLA swimming team is from Hawaii. Meet Brittany Beauchan, from Kailua, Hawaii, on the island of Oahu, raised by her parents Keith and Cheryl Beauchan. And she's helped the Bruins attain a No. 21 ranking.
However, Hawaii does not produce swimmers as it produces surfers.
"Hawaii has no swim competitions, no meets," Beauchan said. "I would have to come out to the mainland to compete."
For the daughter of two working class parents, this was no easy feat. Traveling and training cost a lot of money and they could not pay for it themselves, instead doing it with the help of outside funding and scholarships. She would collect money here and there, and even her club team helped her pay to go compete at various locations.
Not being highly recruited out of high school, it was a difficult road to get to where she is now.
"I was known in the swimming community but I don't think I was fast at all," said Beauchan, a senior Bruin. "I was lucky that [head coach Cyndi Gallagher] recruited me and gave me this opportunity. Maybe she saw raw talent or something."
She was a diamond in the rough. After some proper and rigorous training, she worked her way up, now taking her place as UCLA's best breaststroke swimmer.
She set the UCLA record in the 200 breast with a 2:08.58 and matched the school record in the 100 breast with a 1:00.45 during her junior year. But she didn't end up as a breaststroke swimmer because it was her best event. It was a preference in the training.
"When I was younger, I got to swim whatever event I wanted to," Beauchan said. "I stuck with whatever I took to first, which was the 100 freestyle, and then I became a butterfly swimmer. But then I decided I didn't like the training for either one of them. One day I just told my coach, because I could go back and forth between fly and breast back then, I wanted to breast more."
Though she chose to train more for the breaststroke because she liked the training itself, she seems to have picked the right event, as she won most of her meets in the 200 breaststroke this season.
Being a student-athlete, she has to balance being a star swimmer and a student at UCLA. As a student, she is an anthropology major. Training for the UCLA swim team consists of swimming, weight training, cardio, and running. Traveling and competing at meets also takes a lot leisure time away from athletes in general.
"You definitely have to make a lot of sacrifices," Beauchan said. "You can't do things that everyone else might do. But it's worth it for the swimming. The sacrifices are hard, but then you remember that you're going to hurt yourself in school and swimming if you don't."
As a senior, Beauchan is thinking about her future after UCLA and after collegiate swimming. Upon graduating, Beauchan wants to go back to Hawaii and work in the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, which would consist of finding and identifying POWs and MIAs still out there all over the world.
However, Beauchan does not count out the possibility of going back to school in the future to study ethnomusicology, focusing on African music and its influence in American music today, especially in rap, hip-hop, and reggaeton—music she listens to before her swim meets to pump herself up for her events.
Now that her four-year experience is coming to an end, Beauchan can look back at her time in college and feel accomplished.
"I'm very fortunate of having this experience," said Beauchan. "I wanted to spend some time away from Hawaii, in a different environment. L.A. is a bit crazier and can be stressful at times, but it has been a great experience and I'm very thankful. And without swim, I don't think I would have been able to get here on my own. I would probably be a regular student at the University of Hawaii."
One of Beauchan's role models, Duke Kahanamoku, was an excellent swimmer, who went to the Olympics and brought Hawaii fame and prestige. He also had a big part in introducing surfing as a sport. He set this path for other Hawaiians to enter the swim and surf world, and though there have not been many swimmers from Hawaii since Kahanamoku, Brittany Beauchan stepped up, representing the island of Hawaii the best she can.
"If you want to have a place in the world," she said, "You just have to work hard and give it your all."