December 4, 2012

Wade Allen: A Great Example

In most cases, water and electricity don’t mix. The combination could lead to dangerous or even fatal consequences for anyone or anything caught in the middle.

But for Wade Allen, balancing water and electricity is a daily routine, and one he excels at to boot.

Allen – a sophomore sprint freestyler in Gregg Wilson’s swimming and diving program – is registered in a major that few would even attempt to tackle: electrical engineering.

While training in a swimming program as successful as UCSB is not for the faint hearted, undertaking one of the most difficult majors at one of the most prestigious universities in the country is a whole other monster.

“Being an electrical engineering major while also being an athlete is definitely pretty difficult,” Allen admitted. ”I’ll have practice, then have classes right after. A lot of times, my whole day is devoted to swimming and school.”

The Davis, Calif. native has found success in the pool and in the classroom despite the long days and the early wakeup calls. He was named a Mid-Major All-American Honorable Mention in 2012 after improving dramatically throughout the year – he recorded personal bests in all of his events at the PAC-12 Championships and was part of a 200-freestyle relay team that set a school record time.

The nature of competitive swimming – with nearly year-round training required – makes it so Allen is almost always occupied, but his already robust schedule becomes full-on overloaded at certain times during the year.

“There are a couple times a year where I’m studying for exams at the same time that I’m training for important meets,” he said.

The grueling nature of a student-athlete’s schedule is not lost upon UCSB swimming and diving head coach Gregg Wilson, who was incredulous when he first heard of Allen’s plans to petition into the electrical engineering major.

“Coach looked me at and said ‘are you sure?’” Allen remembered  “When I told him that I did want to enter the major and that electrical engineering was what I wanted to do, he said ‘go for it. I support it.”

To be sure, copious amounts of support would be necessary for anyone attempting to undertake this draining feat. Allen points to his family and to his teammates as his emotional and spiritual pillars when he is feeling weary.

“My family is so supportive in everything I do,” he said. “They just told me to go for it. My two older brothers also chose difficult majors, so maybe I was following in their footsteps a little bit.”

Though it may take much out of his body, Allen looks to the water for mental clarity and a way to keep his spirits up. He specifically draws inspiration from his teammates, with whom he shares the pool everyday.

“I get so excited when my teammates do well,” Allen said. “I focus on pushing them hard in the pool instead of focusing on the individual aspect.”

The perpetual naysayers discount the team aspect of swimming, but – being such a team player – Allen is not buying it.

“Especially in college, there is such a greater team feel,” said Allen. “Pushing each other is what it is all about.”

Though his swimming career will not last forever, Allen does plan on taking some of the values he has learned as a student-athlete into his post-collegiate life. After UCSB, he plans on enrolling in business school and finding a way to make the electrical engineering major unique to him.

If his short time at UCSB so far is any indication, nobody should be shocked if Allen finds greater success – both with the Gauchos and beyond.

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