“A wonderful, fun, intense competitor.”

That is how UCSB Head Swimming Coach Gregg Wilson describes freshman Gaucho swimmer Pat Cary.

“He loves to race. Give him the opportunity, and he gives it 100 percent every time. He doesn’t back off. I noticed it from the beginning and all through the fall; he’s a racer,” Wilson said.

The Mission Viejo native came to UCSB as an experienced swimmer and water polo player. Cary fell in love with UCSB after attending water polo tournaments here as a child. He has wanted to go to college here since age nine. But before this competitor could come to UCSB, he had to make an important decision about which sport to compete in.

“I talked to the water polo coach here and he wanted me to play polo. I talked to the swim coach and he wanted me to swim. I had to pick and choose. I definitely miss water polo, but it was a good decision,” Cary said.

Cary began swimming age six, long before attending UCSB. His mother was his first swimming coach and a guiding influence for him.

“Hard work pays off in swimming. You put a lot of hard work and effort into it. It’s rewarding,” Cary said.

In high school, Cary won the South Coast League swimming title three times. For water polo, he made Second Team All-American, was a two-year MVP and was his team’s leading scorer. During his junior year, he broke one of his school’s longest standing swimming records and the South Coast League record. But that was not good enough for Cary, who broke his own record senior year.

Cary’s achievements in swimming have extended into college. He races the 100- and 200-meter butterfly and the 100-meter freestyle and feels his crowning accomplishment this season was beating USC’s 200 butterflyer, even though the race did not yield his best time.

“We’re seeing the beginning of a great collegiate swimmer. He’s young in the sport and has a lot to learn, but he can do it,” Wilson said. “There’s way more he can do. Right now, he’s climbing the experience ladder.”

Some freshmen have difficulty adjusting to college life and living away from home, but Cary has transitioned smoothly. He has maintained his GPA and lives with three of his best friends from home. The most challenging aspect for Cary has been the demanding practice schedule and training.

“I wasn’t coming from a strong background of swimming, so I thought it would be too intense, but it hasn’t been that way. It’s really hard, it’s really tough, but it hasn’t been out of my limit,” Cary said.

Adjustment to the team came all too easily for Cary. Coach Wilson described Cary as having a great personality and sense of humor and a good initial year in all aspects.

“We call it our own little frat. We’re always together, we always hang out, and we’re always doing something together. We’re so close to each other it’s like a family,” Cary said. “It’s beneficial when you have a team that’s that close to each other, not only the guys but the girls too. We’re all one big family.”

With his impressive first season partially completed, Cary looks forward to future endeavors, both individually and as part of the team. He plans to swim in the NCAA Championships, break the UCSB record for both the 100 and 200 butterfly, and finally make the U.S. Olympic Team Trials. Ideally, he would like to make the trials this June in the 200 butterfly, but if that fails, he will be back in four years.

“[The team’s] going to win conference the next four years, and we’ll be sending a lot of men to the NCAAs,” Cary said.

The Gauchos are fortunate to have a swimmer and person like Cary, and Cary is thankful to have a team like the Gauchos.

“The guys are awesome. They have great leadership. I couldn’t ask for a better team to be on,” Cary said.

It seems that Pat Cary, only a freshman, has it all. He’s had a successful inaugural season and has a bright future, terrific coach-athlete relationship, favorable team bond, positive attitude and the courage to try something new, even if it proves challenging.

“He can go as far as he wants. He’s got the strength and ability to race, and that’s something you can’t give. You either have it or not,” Wilson said. “And Pat’s got it.”