It's one of the most important characteristics an elite athlete can have and its something that 2003 Carson High graduate Lauren Costella has been able to maintain over the past two years. Costella, who will be a junior at Stanford, will carry that perspective into the USA Summer National Swimming Championships which will be held Aug. 3-7 in Irvine, Calif.
Since arriving at Stanford, the last two years haven't exactly gone according to plan for Costella and included a disappointing effort at last summer's U.S. Olympic Trials. During that time, Costella had trouble with adjusting to a new stroke that Stanford coach Richard Quick wanted her to use.
It would be easy for Costella to believe that her struggles were due to Quick trying to change her stroke. One would also think that Costella is happy that Quick has retired and has been replaced at Stanford by 1992 Olympian and Cardinal alumnus Lea Loveless Maurer. But Costella doesn't see it that way.
"I think Richard did a wonderful job while I was there," Costella said. "I'm not saying what he's done over the last two years hurt me. It definitely helped."
Now Costella has gone back to her old stroke under Carson Tigershark coach Jim Puleo, but said she's still trying to incorporate what Quick tried to teach her and that Puleo is helping her with that. "I think he's helped me recognize some of the things Richard talked about," Costella said.
And when one says Costella has struggled, it's a relative term. Costella said her goal at the national championships is to set personal marks in all the events she's swimming. She will compete in the 1,500 and 800-meter freestyles and will time trial in the 400 free and 400 individual medley.
She wants to beat her best times of 16 minutes, 24 seconds in the 1,500 free, 8:42 in the 800 free and 4:19 in the 400 free. Costella also noted that her brother, Kiel, who will be a sophomore at Villanova, finished the 400 I.M. in 4:52 at last weekend's Speedo California-Nevada Sectional meet.
"I have to beat him," she said. "I definitely think I should be able to get best times in all my events."
Another goal, Costella said, is to "get back to where I was. Not that I was that far off last year."
Costella is a two-time national champion in the 1,500 free and won a bronze medal in the 1,500 free at the World University Games. But then she struggled at the Olympic Trials. "It was kind of disappointing at trials," she said.
But Costella did finish sixth in this past spring's NCAA Championships, finishing the 1,650-yard free in 16:05. She took it out in the first 1,000 in a personal best 9:42.
Shortly after the NCAAs, Costella finished third in the 1,500 free in the spring nationals, which were used as the qualifier for the ongoing World Championships and this year's World University Games.
"I was definitely disappointed that that was the selection meet," said Costella about the nationals being used as the qualifier shortly after the NCAAs were held. "Not a lot of college people made the team. That was kind of an awkward meet."
Costella, though, still swam well, finishing third in the 1,500 free. "That meet was OK," she said. "I was pretty happy. I would have bee happier if I won it. But that was OK."
Ordinarily, a third place finish in the 1,500 free would have been good enough to place Costella on the World University Games team. Before the meet began, the swimmers were told that the 1,500 would be used as a qualifying event. But after the nationals began, the swimmers were told the 1,500 would not be used as a qualifier.
"It definitely was a little disappointing," Costella said. "I was a little disappointed that I didn't make the team.
"I still swam the race anyways. I knew when I was swimming it, it wasn't going to qualify me for the meet. There's not much you can do about it."
Besides, there will always be chances to qualify for national teams, Costella said. There's that perspective again. It also figures with the top U.S. swimmers competing at worlds, Costella could do well at nationals.
"There's always room to qualify on national teams and to be on the national team," Costella said. "There's always meets coming up."
Costella would like nothing more than to represent the U.S. again in an international meet. "Being part of the national team is always an honor," she said.