Douglas A. Kogut ’18 won the 200-fly individual title at the recently-concluded NCAA Division III national meet, thereby becoming the first student athlete from MIT to win a title in that category and fourth to win an individual event at the national meet. His time of 1:47:28 was both a personal and a school record and he clinched it when the spotlight shone brightest. He was also part of the 400-free relay team that won silver.
In this edition of The Tech’s Player of the Month, Kogut recounts how, with unyielding consistency, he woke up at five in the morning to maintain his swimming regimen. The course 6-3 major also spoke about strategy and his plans for the Campus Preview Weekend (CPW).
The Tech: Congratulations on winning the 200-fly national title at the NCAA division III meet! How does it feel?
Douglas A. Kogut: It feels great to be able to represent MIT in that capacity. I also think my achievement is a reflection on my teammates and coaching staff.
The Tech: You went into the nationals with a certain mindset. You first competed in the 100-fly, then the qualifying heat for 200-fly finals where you came in third, and eventually the 200-fly. Can you take us through your mindset as those events transpired?
Kogut: Going into the meet, I definitely did not think I was going to win. I was going for getting into the final heat and then finishing in the top eight so I can score points. When I came in third in the qualifier, I knew I had a chance. I got into the zone, got ready for the finals, and competed.
The Tech: What does it mean to be ‘in the zone’ for a swimmer?
Kogut: I would say for me it is listening to music, focusing on the race, going through every component of the race in my head.
The Tech: You mentioned you thought you had a good chance after you finished third in the qualifying heat. How much influence do fellow competitors have during the race? Does it end as soon as you dive in or do you get some idea of how others are performing in adjacent lanes?
Kogut: From the results of the qualification round I knew most of the other finalists had a strong back half of the race. On the other I hand I have a good front half. So I knew I would be out ahead early on. So if I could sustain that then I knew they would not be able to catch up. Thankfully, that strategy worked.
After the race has started, you can get a look at others at the turns but for the most part it is about doing your best.
The Tech: Is there such a thing as saving your best for the finals while you hold yourself back a little during the qualifiers?
Kogut: No, not in the national meet. Our coach says you win points in the [morning qualifiers] because if you do not qualify you will definitely not score a single point.
The Tech: Do pools and/or lanes matter in a race?
Kogut: I would say for me, no. But a lot of people suggested that the pool where the nationals were held was fast, in that swimmers raced faster than their usual times. The temperature of the water can matter, but for me as long as it is not too hot or too cold it makes little difference.
The Tech: This is the first 200-fly national title in school history and the fourth national title in swim and dive. Given the sheer rarity, does your accomplishment feel all the more special?
Kogut: The last student-athlete from MIT to win an individual title at the national meet was Wyatt Ubellacker ’13. I looked up to him. Now I have a chance to inspire my fellow teammates.
The Tech: You compete in the 100 and 200 butterfly. Why do you like those events?
Kogut: I prefer butterfly to the other strokes because I feel like it is the hardest stroke and, especially at the 200 distance, the most strategic stroke to swim.
The Tech: What do you do in the off season to become a better swimmer?
Kogut: Last season, after nationals, I was really motivated as I did not make it to the finals of any event. So I swam seven to eight times a week, waking up at 5 a.m. every day. This off season I plan to do a lot of weight-lifting.
The Tech: How does weight-lifting help?
Kogut: For sprint events or even up to 200 meters it helps in the explosiveness and underwater.
The Tech: How do you like spending time off the pool when you do not have psets due?
Kogut: I like hanging out with my friends on Baker-5th. We often play Smash.
The Tech: It is CPW! What are your plans?
Kogut: I am hosting a swimmer who has committed to MIT. I plan to hang out with the team a lot, along with the incoming recruits.
The Tech: Looking ahead, what are your goals for next year?
Kogut: I would definitely like to repeat this feat and in addition accrue as many points as possible for the team.
The Tech: Thank you for making the time to talk to us.
Editor’s note: This interview was lightly edited for clarity and length.
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