Sophomore Cole Um challenges himself to be better
Although a panda isn’t usually known as an aquatic animal, sophomore Cole Um, previously nicknamed “Panda” by the Carnegie Mellon swim team, has contributed greatly to the Tartans’ recent swimming success.
Originally from Federal Way, Wash., Um has been one of Carnegie Mellon’s top swimmers this season, placing first in the 100-yard breaststroke to propel the Tartans to victory against Grove City College.
This past weekend, Um placed second in the 100-yard breaststroke to place second overall, helping the Tartans win three individual dual meets during the annual home quad meet against Allegheny College, University of Rochester, and Washington & Lee University.
“The depth of our team has improved,” Um said. “Last year was a struggle, but now I feel that in every event we’ve been pretty dominant.”
Um had a decent start to his swimming career last year: He qualified for the University Athletic Association Conference championship, where he placed in the top 20 in several of his signature events. Still, he knew that he wanted to improve.
“That’s the great thing about swimming,” Um said. “You can always get better.”
His specialty has always been breaststroke, but he also enjoys the 200-yard medley relay.
Um has always had a passion for swimming, and admitted that although the “practices are awful, there is nothing like winning a race.” He said, “I love racing. I love that intensity when you’re right next to someone, and you just want to beat them. That sense of competitiveness is like no other.”
Um’s passion earned him the opportunity to coach “10 and under” swimmers for a local club team this past summer.
“I really want to help young athletes succeed and share my love for swimming,” he said.
Um also has noticed a difference between competing for Carnegie Mellon and competing for other swim teams. “When I’m out here, I’m not just competing for myself. Obviously I want to do well individually, but really, [swimming for Carnegie Mellon,] I feel like I’m swimming for my teammates,” he said.
Um emphasized the camaraderie of the swim team, which is highlighted by the team’s annual training trip. For the second half of winter break, the team travels down to Orlando, Fla., where in addition to intensive swimming, they spend time bonding and “soaking up the sun,” he said.
“It is definitely something I look forward to every year,” Um said. “I love just hanging out with everyone.”
He also stressed the importance of the team’s relationship with the coaching staff, comprised of head coach Matt Kinney and assistant coaches Kellie Ayres and Miki Silver.
“The swimming coaches are wonderful and add to the excellent chemistry of the team,” Um said. “It would be really hard to improve without their constant support.”
When he’s not swimming or participating in his other hobbies, such as playing pool, Um studies mechanical engineering. “It’s a boatload of work, but swimming definitely helps me destress,” he said.
Um sets his goals high as he remains optimistic for the rest of the season. “Nationals is our number-one team goal. And I absolutely think we can do it,” he said.