Almost Back to Normal
March 11, 2009
By Larry Watts
Scott Rice is looking forward to life as a "normal" student at the University of Wisconsin.
No more 5:30 a.m. practices, where he logs over 7,000 yards in the pool during the week. No more weekend trips. And no more swimming six events at the major meets.
Rice, a native of Des Moines, Wash., is completing his final year of eligibility for the Badger men's swimming program. However, the history major still has to return to Madison for one more year to complete his degree.
"I was taking between 13 and 15 hours of credit each session," he says. "But I didn't do summer school like a lot of the other athletes. I chose to go back home to train. I like seeing everyone back in Washington and my girlfriend is back home.
"It's going to be hard to finally leave all of this behind, but it's going to be interesting to see how a normal student feels as a change. I'm a little water-logged right now, I've been swimming competitively since I was 4."
But before he can start thinking too much into the future, Rice still has one more swimming date left on his schedule. He has qualified for the NCAA Championships March 26-28 in College Station, Texas.
The last time Rice visited the state of Texas this season, the senior set school records in both the 200 and 100 butterfly. His 200 time of 1:42.53 was enough to make the NCAA "A" cut for the upcoming championships while his time of 46.54 was under the "B" cut. His individual event list at the NCAA Championships also includes the 200 individual medley, where he clocked a lifetime best of 1:46.24 in the recent Big Ten Championships.
Rice saved his best Big Ten Championships race for last. After taking fifth in the 200 IM and fourth in the 100 fly, he finished over a half-second better than Michigan's Dan Madwed to win the 200 fly in 1:43.59. It marked the Badgers' first individual Big Ten men's swimming champion in 10 years.
"I'm not going to lie, my swimming career at Wisconsin has been up and down," he says. "The first two years were pretty good, but I got burned out toward the end of my sophomore year. I didn't rest enough that following summer and my junior year wasn't too good."
But Rice was still good enough to qualify in both fly events for the Olympic Trials last summer. Although he did not make it past the prelims, he says he was happy with his times.
"I dropped nearly a second off my best 200 time," he says. "It was a fun experience. The Trials took place over the Fourth of July, so it was a little different not being home at that time, but it was real interesting to watch the best swimmers in the United States."
Rice has always been a workhorse for the Badgers. In addition to his three individual events, he usually participates in the 800 freestyle relay as swell as the 200 and 400 medley relays.
"I'm just trying to get points up on the board for our team," he says. "It (the workload) may take away a little from my butterfly, but it's become routine for me. It takes a lot of mental preparation and the body gets a little sore, but it comes natural now.
"I kind of had a feeling I would be doing a lot events when I came here. I always swam four events in one day in high school, so swimming six events over three days hasn't really been that difficult."
Rice had a diverse group of schools offering him scholarships when he was coming out of high school. In addition to Wisconsin and Washington, he was also offered by Louisiana State, the University of Denver and West Virginia. But he only took two recruiting trips -- Wisconsin and LSU.
However, in the end, not even a Saturday night football experience in Baton Rouge, which included a live tiger mascot (Mike), could beat out the experience he had in Madison.
"Maybe I was a little tired on my trip to Baton Rouge because I arrived after a midnight flight," he says. "It was a fun experience, but I had taken my first visit to Wisconsin and they had left quite an impression. The team camaraderie at Wisconsin was a big plus for me."
In the middle of next week, Rice expects to hit full taper for the NCAA Championships. Since the Big Ten Championships ended Feb. 28, he has been back to full practice loads.
"We have a required number of sets we have to do in the pool each practice," he says. "I usually don't pay attention to number because I know I'll get depressed. Hopefully, the taper will come sooner than later."
For the past two years, Rice has swum in both fly events, the 200 IM and the 800 free relay at the NCAA Championships. He finished as high as 17th in the 200 fly and 19th in the 200 IM as a sophomore and 30th in the 100 fly as a junior. The 800 free relay team placed 15th last year.
Currently ranked sixth in the 200 fly, Rice is hoping to make the finals this year and earn All-America status. Then he can start thinking about his future, which could include a backpacking trip with his roommate in Europe this summer.
"I've done a lot of camping and hiking with my father since I was very young," he says. "I've never been to Europe and my roommate and I have made tentative plans to go over there for three or four weeks this summer. We'd start out in London, go down to France and then do the full circle through Italy and maybe Croatia. We'll stay in youth hostels or just camp."
And when he returns to Wisconsin next year, he'll have a lot more free time on his hands.
"I wouldn't mind taking a road trip next year," he says. "That's something I have not had a chance to do. I don't have a particular destination in mind, but I think it would be pretty cool."
But as Rice says, there will be plenty of time to think about that. The trip on his mind right now is to College Station, Texas.