UAA athlete of the week, Oct. 23: Sam Dienstag '24
A star swimmer, Dienstag was selected for UAA athlete of the week honors for the week of Oct. 23.
Sam Dienstag ’24, due to his performance in the 1,000-yard freestyle and 500-yard freestyle as well as his lead leg on the winning 400-yard freestyle relay on the week of Oct. 23 earned him his second UAA “Athlete of the Week” honors.
Sam Dienstag ’24
Growing up in California, Sam Dienstag ’24 started swimming at the young age of six, surrounded by a culture and peers that embraced the sport of swimming in the warm weather. He played many other sports but he stood out most as a swimmer and by age 13, he decided that he wasn’t good at any other sport and pursued competing competitively. His go-with-the-flow nature and previous success in distance swimming influenced his decision to choose long-distance swimming. He grew to like distance swimming more, saying “it's nice to just give my brain a break and just kind of go down and back a lot and that's all distance swimming really is.” His favorite thing about competing in swimming was seeing the hard work put into training directly translate into the tangible results of better times, which, compared to other sports, is not always possible as other sports can be more contingent on the entire team and singular mistakes can change the course of a game.
Despite coming into Brandeis during the fall of 2020 and being unable to compete with other teams due to COVID-19, Dienstag made an immediate impact on the swim team, earning All-American honors based on times during 2020 and qualifying for the national championship every year he has competed so far. Last year he was the highest-ever finisher in Brandeis history at nationals finishing fourth and earning two All-American honors for earning second-team honors in the 500-yard freestyle and first-team in the 1,650-yard freestyle. Outside of nationals, he received UAA athlete of the week honors last year during the week of Oct. 18 and holds four individual school records in the freestyle, ranging from 200 to 1650 yards, and part of a relay record in the 200-yard medley.
Dienstag cites part of his success from his team culture saying that in the “smaller team that we weren't in years past, everyone is pretty close… everyone is working together to support each other during [midterms].” He shared some of his approach to swimming saying he “approaches every day with [the] best effort I can.” He also believes in a growth mindset which helps him recover from bad meets by focusing on his “what went well, what went wrong, what can [be] improved upon?” belief in focusing on areas of improvement rather than dwelling on setbacks reflects in his performances from year to year in which there is a consistent upward trajectory of time improvements.
His contributions to the team are not limited to his personal achievements. As the only senior captain on the swim team, he has an important role on the team, especially as the most experienced member on the team, with his multiple trips to nationals. He believes in leading by example, saying “I feel like it wouldn't be fair for me to tell people, ‘work hard in practice or something like that’ if I'm just slacking off.” He hopes to “inspire some of the younger guys” on the team with his work ethic and performance both athletically and academically. His presence on the team is influenced by Brendan Lou, a captain during his sophomore year, whom he deeply connected with due to their shared double major, giving him an example of how to balance life in and out of the water which “as I've gotten older and gone through college more years, I think I've just gotten better at that.”
As Dienstag nears the end of his collegiate swimming career, and he plans to continue swimming for exercise, he emphasizes a shift away from the competitive setting. Post-graduation, he plans to move to the Midwest and work in finance. As he swims the final laps of his collegiate swimming career, Dienstag has left an indelible mark on the Brandeis swim team, not only as an accomplished athlete in the form of multiple records and achievements but also as a leader and inspiration to his teammates.