By James Hemker
This article is part of a running series The Daily sports staff will be publishing on graduating seniors.
Senior Ella Eastin is a member of three NCAA championship teams (2017-19). The 20-time All-American holds eight individual championships in the 400-yard IM (2016-19), 200-yard IM (2016,2018) and the 200-yard butterfly (2017-18). She is the first woman in collegiate history to complete a career sweep of the 400 IM. She also holds the American records in her three championship events. Eastin was named the 2019 Pac-12 Scholar Athlete of the Year for women’s swimming and diving. The Daily’s James Hemker sat down with Eastin to reflect on her time, both in and out of the pool, at Stanford.
The Stanford Daily (TSD): Do you remember your first day of practice?
Ella Eastin (EE): [motioning] Yes, it happened in those couple lanes right there. I remember that I sprinted the whole time. I had no idea how in shape I was relative to everyone, but I was terrified that I wasn’t going to be able to keep up. From day one, I put my head down and put in my full effort no matter what the practice was. Soon after that, we flew to Hawai’i and had some pretty tough workouts there. I quickly recognized some of my strengths and then really recognized my weaknesses. Some of those weaknesses I still have now, but I’ve used them to improve.
TSD: From that first day to the final meet does it feel like a blur?
EE: A little bit. We are on a schedule that is basically the same all year round, and it makes the time pass really quickly. I remember bits and pieces along the way. The most salient things are really, really hard days or really, really good days. I wouldn’t say it was a blur, but it did fly by.
TSD: Aside from winning your many championships, do you have any favorite moments from over the years?
EE: Yeah, my living situation last year. I lived with five other swimmers, and some of my best memories come from living in a suite with them. It’s completely unrelated to swimming besides the fact that we are friends because of the sport and being on the team. I remember being silly to the point of exhaustion and playing Just Dance and getting really competitive. We spent time after dinner just lying around and being super tired, but enjoying each other’s company.
I’ve also really enjoyed certain parts of school where I completely nerd out over something and just having those moments to be learning. I’m grateful about where I’ve gotten the opportunity to learn and all the things I have to look forward to because of my educations and experiences that I’ve gotten here.
TSD: You’ve garnered a lot of individual records and awards. Looking back on them, which are you most proud to have achieved?
EE: I think something this year that I was proud of was being named [Pac-12] Scholar Athlete of the Year. I try to be well-rounded in the sense that I give effort to everything I do in my life. I don’t necessarily master everything in my life, but I put a pretty good emphasis on all endeavors. I think that was shown through that award. That’s something that I’m proud of and something that I think is a testament to this place— just being able to succeed in multiple things at once in a really good way.
TSD: Could you breakdown what it was like winning the NCAA championship the first time vs the second time vs the third time?
EE: Oh man, every single one looked different. The first year was a little bit of a comeback story from my freshman year when we barely lost because of a disqualification. The second year we succeeded with flying colors, and I think that we had a really calm confidence all of that year that we were going to win. We were focusing on how good we could be, how much we could win by, how much of a statement we could make. This year, it was about proving some people wrong. We proved as a new group that the legacy of Stanford swimming would continue to move forward.
TSD: Are you a superstitious swimmer? Do you have any race-day routines that you have to go through?
EE: Nothing much other than general warm-up habits, since I do the same warm-up at meets every single time. One thing recently that I’ve become superstitious about is having [head coach] Greg cap me, which is putting my cap on before my race. First I go to him for advice on my race and how to move forward and stuff like that. He’s very comforting to me, and it’s something that he’s done since my freshman year. I first really remember it before my 200 IM freshman year when I broke the American Record, and since then I’ve always gone to him before I swam as a source of calm confidence.
At this last meet, there was a time before one of my races when I couldn’t find him, so I found Dave Durden, who is the men’s coach at Cal. He’s very similar and best friends with Greg so I went up to Dave and was like, ‘Hey can you cap me? You’re the closest thing to Greg, I can’t find him, and I’m up in two minutes to race.’ That was a fine substitution, and it didn’t make or break anything, but it’s one of the things that I stick with.
TSD: Do you have any Stanford bucket list things?
EE: My roommates and I have a bucket list. We are all seniors, so it mostly has to do with senior stuff and doing things on campus that we want to do together. It’s not necessarily Stanford specific things, but more stuff to do together. I’ll be on campus another year, so maybe I’ll get to do some Stanford things then, but I’m generally looking forward to all the Stanford events that recognize seniors.
TSD: In a recent gostanford.com interview, you talked about your goals of Tokyo and the Olympics, but you also said you refuse to look at yourself only as a swimmer. What do your non-swimming future plans hold?
EE: So right after my swimming career is over, I’m going to go to nursing school to most likely get my Ph.D. or doctorate in nursing practice. I for sure want to become a nurse practitioner and an advanced practice nurse, but I also want to be involved in research. I want to bring on new challenges once my swimming career is over because I know I am always going to have this side of me that’s competitive. I plan on enrolling pretty quickly into nursing school when I’m done with swimming to be able to bring a new challenge to my life.
Contact James Hemker at jahemker ‘at’ stanford.edu.