Seventeen-year-old Tegan Preston, born in Melbourne, Australia and now nearly a decade into life as a resident of the Encinitas/Carlsbad area (after a brief stint in San Jose) is a success story on all sorts of levels in her adopted country. In the water since she was a toddler, Preston has parlayed early lessons and 10 years of competitive swimming into a stellar prep career and now an opportunity to pursue her sport in college. One of the best swimmers in La Costa Canyon High School history, she is a five-time CIF individual champion (three in the 100 breaststroke and two in the 200 individual medley) and holds the school record in the 100 breast.
A senior, in about a month she will be a key part of a Maverick contingent that will be trying to bring the school its first-ever CIF Swimming & Diving championship. LCC Head Coach Patty Mackle knows she’ll be difficult to replace.
“She’s got great tempo and speed and really likes to race,” said Mackle, whose team finished second to Cathedral Catholic at last year’s CIF Division II meet. “Obviously, she’s quite good in her individual events, but she’s also an outstanding relay swimmer—her breaststroke leg for our winning 200 medley relay team at CIF last season was phenomenal—it won that race for us.”
With CIF San Diego and then the California State Meet on the horizon, followed by graduation and matriculation to UC Santa Barbara, Preston spent time recently sharing her thoughts on her high school career, the keys to her swimming success and advice for young swimmers.
Q—You have a little over a month remaining in your high school swimming career. Has that reality started to sink in and what are your thoughts?
PRESTON—It is pretty surreal that my high school career is almost over. I think that high school swimming is a very different experience from club swimming (she also swims for North Coast Aquatics), and racing for my school has always been exciting to me, especially at the CIF Championships. I think my strongest memory of swimming at
LCC is bonding with my teammates over the years and breaking relay records together.
A lot of people might not think of swimming as a team sport but I would fully consider it that. Everyone on the team is there every day pushing each other—it’s how we get through training. It would be hard to stay motivated without each other. When you race, the work you’ve put into it is your own but your teammates make the journey to get there easier.
Q—As the two-time defending CIF champion in a pair of individual events, do you feel any pressure to make it three straight?
PRESTON—I do feel a little bit of pressure, but I know that I’ve done the work in practice to be successful in the pool. The most important thing is to have confidence in yourself and your swimming. I’m confident in my ability to finish my four years strong and winning events mean scoring points for my team, so I take that very seriously.
Q—Physical or mental? What is most important to a swimmer’s success?
PRESTON—Obviously, you have to train to a certain point to be successful, but a lot of it is mental. A lot of people, particularly younger swimmers, can freak out a little bit in pressure situations—that’s something you learn to deal with over the years.
I have a specific 20-minute routine I go through before every race that includes stretching, warm-up in the pool, listening to about 3-to-5 minutes of music that makes me happy and excited and then getting my head in the right mindset before getting on the blocks. That routine, which I’ve really just figured out consistently over the last year or so, has helped a lot and made it so that I’m putting out my best every race.
Q—In the breaststroke, how would you describe your swimming style?
PRESTON—I have a very quick tempo, so I would say that I have quick stroke that is not super long. I am working on lengthening out my stroke, especially for the 200 breast in club season.
Q—The freestyle has been the weakest of your four strokes in the individual medley. Given that freestyle is the last leg of the IM, what race strategy do you use to put yourself in position not to be beaten at the finish?
PRESTON—I try to put myself in a good position before the breaststroke leg, because that’s when I know I can get ahead of people. I can usually hold my ground on the freestyle, so the most important thing for me is making sure I am ahead on the breaststroke.
Q—Does LCC have the talent and depth to win a CIF Division II team title this season?
PRESTON—Yes, I believe that our girls’ team is an incredibly talented group this year and we have a lot of freshmen, like sprinter Ava Delaney, who bring new speed to the team which is exciting. We’ve also got a solid group of divers this year, which can be the difference between winning and losing,
Our girls’ team is a very motivated group and we are looking for a CIF title this year for sure.
Q—Besides yourself, who are a couple of the top swimmers on this year’s LCC team? What impresses you about each of them?
PRESTON—Rachel Rhee is such an amazing swimmer and her competitiveness and love of racing is always really inspiring. It’s been fun being on her relays all four years that we’ve been on LCC swim together. Another swimmer who I think has a lot of talent is Phil Pozdnyakov. He is a really good leader for the guys’ team and I am excited to see how fast he is going to swim at CIFs and the State meet.
Q—You have a 3.6 GPA and will be attending UC Santa Barbara next fall. What are your future plans as far as swimming and academics? Why did you decide on UCSB?
PRESTON—The second I stepped foot on the campus I was in love with the school and in awe of how beautiful it was. I am so lucky that I get to spend four more years right next to the beach at an amazing academic school. The swim team atmosphere was so incredible and I loved being with the team so much. I felt right at home during my recruiting trip, and I knew that Santa Barbara was the place for me.
I’m going to go in as a pre-biology major and my objective, at least now, is to go into bio-tech like my dad. As far as swimming, I want to drop my times, that’s always a goal, but it would be cool to win in conference and qualify for the NCAA Championships.
Q—Anything you would have done differently, swimming-wise, if you could do it again?
PRESTON—I don’t think there’s anything I would have done differently, my swimming career since grade school has been really fun and I am looking forward to a new experience in college.
Q—Who has inspired you most in terms of your swimming career?
PRESTON—I think my club coach, Mickey Murad (at North Coast Aquatics). I have known him since I was 10 years old, and he started coaching me when I was 14. He always pushes me to be the best that I can be, and he has helped me through the tough times as well. He is constantly finding ways to help our team and make us better swimmers and people. I am lucky to have had such a great mentor over the past four years.
Q—What kind of advice would you give young swimmers who want to follow in your footsteps?
PRESTON—I would say that if you love swimming, keep doing it and work hard because you will be successful in the long run. Listen to your coaches! They want what is best for you and they care so much about you and your swimming. Being a coachable swimmer is the one of the most important things that I’ve taken away from the past four years.
Q—Besides the physical part of it, how has swimming impacted your life?
PRESTON—Through swimming I have met so many of my best friends and it has taught me so many lessons. The relationships you build and develop with your teammates teach you the importance of things that may seem relatively small but are really critical throughout life—things like how to motivate yourself and others, staying positive, body language and communication skills.
It has given me confidence, helped me enhance my time management abilities and improve my honesty as far as every day responsibility and accountability are concerned.
The training we do every day is intense and you have to want to work. Because of swimming, every day I’m able to step up and not be afraid to work hard—to not be afraid of anything.