Alone at the Top

Swimmer Tom Peterson Lives a Dream

In collegiate athletics, there is no higher honor than to be named an All-American--a recognition that an athlete is one of the best in the nation, part of an elite.

For many, an All-America selection is the culmination of years of work in playgrounds, little leagues and school teams.

The appellation, moreover, conjures up idealistic images of the hugely talented, passionately driven, and--at all times--eminently humble athlete, almost spiritually committed to the pursuit of excellence.

Enter Tom Peterson, the Harvard Crimson Male Athlete of the Year.

If there is any athlete at Harvard deserving on the title All-American--and at least some of the mythical baggage the honor carries with it--it is Peterson.


Last March, the Eliot senior confounded most in the swimming world by capturing third place in the 400-yard IM and sixth in the 200-yard backstroke at the NCAA championships. Those performances were good enough to secure his childhood dram: an All-America selection.

Peterson's recipe for success is simple: highstandards and perseverence.

Coach Mike Chasson, who began coaching atHarvard this year, says he immediately recognizedthat Peterson had the potential to succeed.

"I definitely saw that he could be anAll-American," Chasson says. "He's very dedicatedand very coachable. He has an incredible workethic. His strength is his competitiveness, hisability to commit himself to a goal."

Last year, the Tyngsboro, Mass. resident gothis first shot at earning All-America honors. But,he says, got "floored by the competition,"finishing a distant 23rd in the 200-yardbackstroke at the NCAA championships.

Making A Vow

After that experience, Peterson vowed he wouldmake his mark this year at NCAAs.

At the urging of Chasson, Peterson focused hisattention during his senior year on establishinghimself as a national competitor.

"This year I focused myself as an individual onmaking the NCAAs. I was not just out to make themeet, but to finish at the top," Peterson says. "Iwanted to finish high at Easterns, not that wasn'tgoing to be the culmination of my season. I wantedto make it to the NCAAs and make a mark there."

The swimmer did everything it took and more.

The NCAA limits coach-supervised practice timeto 20 hours. Peterson put in six extra hours.