The Sky Is Not The Limit For Cal Swimmer Bruce Vogelgesang

Jan. 29, 2002

BERKELEY, CA - While most Cal students are spending their summer relaxing and taking a break from the rigors of attending one of the most prestigious and challenging academic institutions in the nation, senior swimmer Bruce Vogelgesang put himself through a whole different set of challenges during his summer vacation.

Vogelgesang, who has displayed the discipline necessary to balance swimming with a major of material science and engineering at Cal, took that discipline to another level when he decided to attend The Marines Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Quantico, Virginia from June 2 to Aug. 10. It was the beginning steps in Vogelgesang's quest of achieving his lifelong dream of becoming a pilot.

'The (marine) recruiters had a station at the job fair on campus and they mentioned they had guaranteed pilot slots, meaning as long as I pass the tests and meet the physical requirements, I would be guaranteed a chance to go to flight school,' said Vogelgesang. 'What happens after that depends on how I score at flight school, but at least I'd have the opportunity to fly.

'Being an astronaut was probably the first thing I ever wanted to be when I was little,' continued Vogelgesang, a three-year letterman from San Ramon who was a first team Pac-10 All-Academic selection last season. 'But then I became involved in swimming and other things began to take precedence in my life. I never knew the opportunity existed to become a pilot, which leads to becoming an astronaut, so when I saw the possibility existed, I took it. Like most everyone, I want to fly jets, and the Marine Corps has the F/A 18 Hornet as their jet of choice. As I explore and see the aircraft available to me, anything would be exciting, be it a jet or a helicopter.'

So despite spending nearly the entire school year getting up at the crack of dawn for morning workouts, then going to class before returning to Spieker Aquatics Complex for afternoon practice, Vogelgesang decided to continue a disciplined and structured existence over the summer.

'OCS was basically officer boot camp,' said Vogelgesang. 'It is similar to a boot camp in several ways, such as having drill instructors, called Sergeant Instructors, and they break you down and force you to work as a team, not as a bunch of individuals. It is different than boot camp in that they are evaluating each candidate's potential to become an officer, yet they are not actually training us to become officers. As we were told at OCS, it is basically a 10-week job interview. They gave us enough training to evaluate our potential. All the training will come once I graduate from college and enter the service.'

Did Vogelgesang's years of experience in the pool, and most recently as a member of coach Nort Thornton's Cal squad, help him adjust to officer training and give him an advantage over the other candidates?

'The discipline I've learned over the years at swimming definitely helped me last summer,' explained Vogelgesang. 'They (the marines) created a stressful environment for us, but any stress we felt was stress we placed upon ourselves. Swimming can get long and boring and hard, and you have to provide your own motivation to finish the swim, the set, or even the practice. Once you get used to someone yelling at you - actually at your group, not you specifically - the hard part is actually doing what they are telling you to do. Being in physical shape definitely helped as we had PT (physical training) 4-5 times a week, with each session consisting of running, push ups, pull ups, sit ups, and various other exercises. It was beneficial to be able to finish the sessions and not be completely drained for the rest of the day.'

But being involved in an officer candidate school over the summer did make it tough for Vogelgesang to get back into swimming shape once he returned to Cal. He did not step foot in the water for three months, the longest he had been out of the water in his swimming career - a career that includes being a high school swimming All-American and North Coast Section record-holder in the 500 free at California High School in San Ramon. Vogelgesang, in typical hardworking fashion, got himself back into shape during fall practices and is now enjoying his final collegiate season as one of the Bears' distance freestylers and backstrokers. He is also enjoying swimming with his younger brother, Keith, who is a sophomore IMer for Cal. The Vogelgesang's father, Fred, is a frequent visitor to Spieker Aquatics Complex as a meet official.

'I very much enjoy swimming with my brother, and was very glad when he made his decision to come to Cal,' said Vogelgesang. 'He is one of my best friends and it's good to be going to the same school and competing together. It's also nice to have another engineer (Keith is majoring in industrial engineering) to take classes with when we can arrange it. My dad has been officiating at USS meets for as long as I have been swimming and he enjoys officiating at our home meets.'

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