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Getting to Know... Sam Baron

Sep 10, 2020

The fourth installment of "Getting to Know…" features incoming swim and dive freshman Sam Baron, a two-time Washington state champion who is set to arrive in Westwood this month following a standout high school and club career in Bellevue, Wash. Learn more about her journey to UCLA and how the COVID-19 quarantine has affected her college adjustment process. 

Q: What is your mindset heading into your freshman given the cancellation of the 2020 fall season and you being an out-of-state student?
A: I'm currently in Seattle and I'm planning to leave in about two weeks for LA. I kind of expected that there wouldn't be a fall season. I was kind of relieved since I was pretty much out of the pool for four months because of quarantine. So having that extra time to train and get in shape puts less pressure on my shoulders, and I think as a result I'll hopefully perform better because of the extra time. Come spring, we'll be more prepared and ready to perform at Pac-12s and even NCAAs if they're able to take place next year.
Q: Although swimming is an individual sport, how have you been able to train and stay in shape during the quarantine?
A: I have a few friends who live close by, so it's been helpful to be able to train with them. We've been able to run together and even train at someone's house pretty easily while still staying safe. My dryland coach has been sending workouts to us three times a week, so we've been doing those for the past four months. I've also been open water swimming with a few friends just because all the pools have been closed. Once the weather started getting better about midway through quarantine, I was able to swim in Lake Washington as well as a few small local pools in my neighborhood that opened up.
Q: What was your recruitment process like and what was it about UCLA's program that drew you to become a Bruin?
A: It was really stressful at the beginning just because I didn't really know what I wanted in a school. But once I was able to narrow it down, I thought that UCLA had a good fit for me in terms of its academics and athletics. I thought that with all the schools I was looking at, believe it or not, it was actually the one closest to home, so that also played a factor. My sister, Bridgette, is also a Bruin. She's going into her last year, but that really gave me comfort in deciding on UCLA given we'd overlap a for the final year. Also, when I took a trip to visit UCLA, all the girls on the team were super welcoming and it really felt like a second home. I think in that short amount of time I got along with them, and that was something that was super important to me to during my recruitment process in order to be successful in the pool.
Q: Have you met the team yet? And with Coach Wolfrum stepping into the new role as head coach last season, what is your relationship like with her so far?
A: I've had a really good connection with the whole team, even the divers. Here, the divers have a really good relationship with the swimmers and we're all one big team. We've been doing a lot of Zoom calls that have been frequent –– either weekly or every other week at the very least –– with the whole team. We also have small groups that we also constantly talk in, so I really got to know most of the team. I'm also good friends with Gabby Dang who used to swim on Bellevue Club Swim Team with me. I really got to get close to her and just ask her a lot of questions. Our freshman class, we have a little group chat. We're all obviously new to this, so we're all going through the transition together. And then my relationship with Coach Wolfrum is really good. She's been very welcoming and just excited to have me on the team. All the swimmers had good things to say about her, which made me feel more confident in my decision to swim at UCLA with her as my coach.
Q: With Kenisha Liu and Amy Okada –– UCLA's top IMer and flyer –– graduated, as well as Amy being a member of the medley team that broke the school record in February, they've left big shoes to fill. How do you see yourself fitting into the Bruins' lineup?
A: I really look up to both of them, especially Amy Okada. I was able to go to Pac-12s in 2018 and watched her race in the 200 fly and that really made me motivated and inspired me to do well and score for UCLA and hopefully help the team to make NCAAs.
Q: As an IMer, you're often able to fill in for certain events that may not be your main events when needed. Have you always excelled at all four strokes and how have been able to develop your versatility over the course of your career so far?
A: It's more that I'm actually very indecisive. I never liked just choosing one stroke to focus on because often times that becomes really stressful. So with my coaches, I've been able to train in all four strokes pretty well. Even though I'm considered a flyer, I still enjoy those breaststroke and backstroke sets. I have a lot of teammates who are breaststrokers and backstrokers, so swimming next to them has really helped me improve those legs of the 200 IM.
Q: Can you walk me through what it was like at Junior Nationals last summer for your relay team to drop so much time in the Medley Relay and just what it was like to end the meet on that note?
A: Yeah it was at Stanford and we ended up medaling. It was pretty special just because we had a senior in the relay, Christina Bradley. The rest of us were two juniors and one sophomore, so it was really special to see all of us pull through like that to win it with her. We all had a really good meet, so it was really cool to end it on such a high note. I think all of us went around our best times. And being able to do that multiple times was really cool.
Q: Was there an athlete or swimmer that you looked up to growing up and what was it about them that made them a role model for you?
A: I really looked up to Dana Vollmer just because she has always been really good flyer and she's just been around for a long time. With her also being a mother now and seeing her last race at nationals last year after giving birth to her second child, it was cool to see her career take off and ending it on such a good note. I was there to be able to watch her last race before retirement so that was very special.
Q: What are you studying at UCLA and what are your career goals post-swimming?
A: I'm studying psychology in hopes of becoming a sports psychologist. I don't think I'll ever stop swimming, but I do hope to travel and see other pools. European pools are so pretty so I'd like to visit those some day. As a sports psychologist, I'd hope to be able to work with a variety of different teams and different athletes to break the stigma around mental health.
Q: You mentioned loving to travel. Is there a favorite place or trip that you can recall where swimming has taken you?
A: Every spring my team did a trip to Coronado, Calif., and that was always super fun because it's really hard training, so you get a good workout. You burn a lot of calories, so we get to eat a lot of good food. We go to the beach and we're able to work on our tans. So it's always fun to train together somewhere away from home and just being able to train in a fun way and not just focus on meets and getting faster. Instead it was mainly to have fun and bond with the team, so I'll definitely miss that trip.  


Favorite non-swimming activity?  Traveling and eating
Favorite movie ever? Little Women
Dream place to live? Korea or somewhere in Europe
Favorite musical artist? Dominic Fike or Glass Animals
Favorite pro sports team? Seattle Seahawks
First activity after getting on campus?  Go to the beach
Go-to post-meet food?  Ice cream
Why UCLA?  Perfect balance between athletics and academics

Previous "Getting to Know..." Publications
Obi Eboh -- Football
Carlie Dorostkar -- Cross Country
Sam Feit - Men's Tennis