By Matt Leon

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The University of Pennsylvania has had a lot of accomplished athletes do a lot of impressive things over the years. But one thing that eluded the athletic program was an NCAA National Champion swimmer.

That is until last weekend.

Chris Swanson became the first Penn swimmer to accomplish that feat down in Atlanta, Georgia, winning the national championship in the 1650 freestyle with a school record-setting time of 14:31.54.

He talks about when it really crystallized for him that the title was within his grasp.

“Honestly, probably during the race,” Swanson tells KYW Newsradio. “That’s when I thought I could do it. I had high hopes of what I could do before, but going into the meet, there was a kid named Clark Smith, who had broken the American record earlier in the year swimming in the 1000 freestyle, so everyone in the country thought he was going to win it by a large margin. He ended up not having a great meet, to my benefit, but it wasn’t really until the last 50 (yards) of the 1650 that I though, ‘Ok, I can win this.'”

Listen to the entire interview with Penn’s Chris Swanson:

 

Swanson says a big key to success for him in Atlanta was sticking to his strategy.

“I know I don’t have the most speed, especially in that field,” Swanson says. “There was a kid who, earlier in the week, had broken the 200-yard freestyle American record, and I was racing him. So I knew I wasn’t going to have the speed of this kid. So my strategy was just to be consistent throughout the whole thing and then just try to go as fast as I can at the very end.”

Swanson is the first swimmer from any Ivy League school to win a national championship since 1990.

This race capped a fantastic career for Swanson, which also included nine Ivy League Championships and three All-America Honorable Mentions.
While his college swimming days are over, Swanson still plans to stay in the pool here in the near future.

“I’m going to be training during the spring and beginning of the summer for Olympic trails which take place at the end of June,” Swanson says.