Michael joined the Tilden Woods dolphins when he was only six years old and graduated when he was 18--that means (if I counted on my fingers correctly) he swam for TW for thirteen summers! He also swam for Walter Johnson high school, the University of Virginia, and RMSC (Rockville-Montgomery Swim Club). He has international swimming experience, too, representing the United States at the 2003 Pan American Games, the 2004 SCM [short course meters] World Champs, and the 2005 LCM [long course meters] World Champs. Mike also had a very exciting swim at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials, and since many MCSL swimmers are heading out to Omaha now, this seemed like a good time to catch up with him.
Sally MacKenzie--Hi, Michael! Thanks so much for stopping by. First, for those who may not know, what’s your favorite stroke?
Michael Raab--Butterfly, of course.
SM--I see you’ve had a few MCSL records, even at one point the Long Course 15-18 200 free record, but you still hold the MCSL Long Course 15-18 100 fly record--56.51. And you’re on the list of MCSL Olympic qualifiers. Are you hopping a plane to Omaha soon?
MR, laughing--No. I only swim once or twice a week now to stay in shape (no mornings!). I have no plans to compete again but would love to spend some more time coaching/teaching swimming.
SM--So what are you doing to keep busy?
MR--I work as an equity analyst at an asset management firm in Arlington, Virginia called Sands Capital Management. I also still play some guitar, but only around the house--the band members have all gone their separate ways, though it was fun while it lasted.
SM--Well, I’ll tell you my then-teenaged son liked your band’s CD, though I have to admit, it wasn’t quite my thing. But tell us what you liked best about MCSL swimming.
MR--MCSL swimming offers a unique experience where six year old boys and girls can compete on the same team as 18 year olds from their neighborhood. The result is an environment that promotes sportsmanship, competition, friendship, and a sense of community. Tilden Woods and MSCL swimming have provided me with many of my best memories - not just in swimming.
SM--What are some of those memories?
MR--Feeling the support from the Tilden Woods community whenever I traveled to an international or national meet. For MCSL specifically, my best memory is really just any given Saturday morning in the summer at a meet. I still watch as many as I can.
SM--Great! Now, give us your secret--how did you psych yourself up for all those record-breaking swims?
MR--It didn't take much to get myself excited for a race if I set goals ahead of time. The main challenge was making sure I was excited and not nervous.
SM--Hmm, okay. But what about practice? How about telling us what your worst practice ever was.
MR--It wasn’t a TW practice--it was at UVA. I had to stay after regular practice on a Friday morning and do five 300s butterfly sets at race pace by myself.
SM--Ouch! I can’t even imagine doing one 300 fly without dying--okay, I can barely manage a 25 fly. Why did you have to undergo this torture?
MR-- In all honesty, I had to stay after for "punishment." This was a common thing for me in college. I would say I had to stay after practice for extra sets at least once every few weeks. However, I later learned that it was a plan by my coach to help build confidence and challenge me. And yes, the five 300s were all out. My coach stood on the deck and clocked me on every one.
SM--I’m exhausted just thinking about it! What would you say was your best or worst race?
MR--My best MSCL race and memory is when I won the 50 freestyle Coaches Long Course race as an 8 year old. It was my first time diving off the blocks and swimming in a long course pool. My best and worst race in my career was the 200 fly at the 2004 Olympic Trials when I got third.
SM--Why was the Olympic Trials 200 fly your best and worst race?
MR-- It was my best swim because it was what I believe to be my greatest swimming accomplishment--just missing the Olympics by finishing third to Tom Malchow by .3 seconds. It was my worst because I didn't make my goal. The only thing that still bothers me is that it wasn't my best time. I was off my best by about .3 seconds.
SM--Wow. Still, an amazing, amazing accomplishment. And now another crop of MCSL swimmers are heading off for the Trials, including one of your fellow Tilden Woodsians, Eric Friedland. You want to encourage them with your favorite Tilden Woods cheer?
MR--Sure. My favorite cheer is definitely "Ah Bey" (if that's how you spell it). It's a Tilden Woods classic. It’s great because there are basically five words: Ah Bey . . . Hey. Who's going to win? . . . Tilden Woods! Then you have a splash party in the pool.
SM--Thanks for stopping by the blog, Michael. If any readers have questions for Michael, put them in the comment section and Michael will try to look in during the day and answer them.