Breaststroker David Lundberg's teammates on the Walnut Creek Swim Club should have presented him with a special award after the U.S. National Swimming Championships last weekend at Blodgett Pool. The Provo, Utah, native not only finished in the top 16 in three events, but he also led his teammates to some of the finest restaurants in the Boston area.
Of course, Lundberg had a distinct advantage over other West coast aquatic stars who ignorantly patronize Tommy's Lunch and Pinocchio's Pizza for an entire week. For last year, Cambridge was home to Lundberg, when he resided in Weld Hall and breaststroked regularly at Blodgett.
A freshman sensation, Lundberg sparked the Crimson to its upset victory last season over the Indiana Hoosiers with two individual wins, and then weeks later, brought home high-point honors from the Eastern Seaboard Championships.
But before the season ended, Lundberg, a member of the Mormon church, decided to vacate his spot on the roster and, like many young men of his faith, go on a mission. "A lot of people think that the church makes us go, but in fact, it's up to each individual, and I really wanted to do it," Lundberg said last week, "Of course, if you grow up in Provo, where everyone else goes, there is a lot of social pressure."
In a Mormon mission, the church assigns the missionary to the place where he will do his work--spending two years teaching local residents the principles of Mormonism. "They can send you anywhere in the free world," Lundberg said.
Just before his assignment in December, Lundberg decided that he did not want to leave after all. "I decided to wait," he said. "I wasn't really prepared for it, and I didn't want to begin unless I could put all my effort into it."
After arriving at his decision, Lundberg enrolled in math, physics and religion courses at Brigham Young University. Then, in March, he went to visit Rick Millington, his coach at Walnut Creek, who suggested that he re-enter the swimming world and begin training for the nationals, which were only a month away.
"He told me that a few years ago Steve Lundquist took off most of the season and then after only two months of training, he went to the nationals and set American records," Lundberg said. "So then Rick asked me if I wanted to pull a Lundquist, I got psyched and decided to get back in the water."
Lundberg didn't "pull a Lundquist," when he returned to Blodgett, but he did place fifth in the 200 IM, eighth in the 100 breast and 11 in the 200 breast, enough to make Harvard coach Joe Bernal wish that Lundberg had never left Cambridge.
"Dean Putterman did a good job for us this year, but we still have a gap in the breaststroke events," Bernal said. "If we had both David and Dean, we'd be incredibly strong in that department."
By September, Lundberg must decide whether to go on his mission or return to college. NCAA rules prohibit him from sitting out another season without losing a year of eligibility, but the NCAA will not penalize him for time spent fulfilling religious obligations.
"I still want to go on the mission," he said, "but my swimming career could really suffer because for some reason that I don't understand, the church won't let me in the water for the entire two years."
Even when he does go back to school, Lundberg may not return to Harvard. "I'm not sure it's the place for me," he said. "Last year was very difficult. You could say that coming from Provo to Cambridge was somewhat of a culture shock."
Lundberg also thinks that his family would prefer him to remain on the West coast. "I think they'd like to be able to see me more often," he said, "but it's been good to be back in Cambridge seeing old friends."