Second chances can lead to amazing things.

UC San Diego is in position to challenge for a top spot in the team standings at the 2011 NCAA Division II Championships. Two of the swimmers that will play a critical role in UCSD’s quest for that top team finish did not start their careers with the Tritons. Junior Matt Herman swam his first two years at UC Davis before it was announced on April 16, 2010, that the program would be cut. Redshirt freshman Nick Korth never had a chance to swim for the Anteaters at UC Irvine. 

“Before school even started my freshman year they called us at the end of July and notified us that the team had been cut, but they were going to try to get the team back,” Korth said. “I had a lot of hope for the team, so I attended school, but they weren’t able to get the team back.

“The whole first quarter, I gave up on swimming. I gained a lot of weight -- 27 pounds -- and I wasn’t happy with the way I looked or felt so I went back to swimming and started checking out other schools.”

Both Korth and Herman found their next pool deck home with coach Scott McGihon and the Tritons.

“I got a call from Scott McGihon that there was room on the UC San Diego team,” Herman said. “I came down for a visit and fell in love with the place.”

“Two of my friends were looking at UCSD and convinced me to go,” Korth said. “I emailed Scott (McGihon). I wasn’t able to come down and check it out, but I had gone previously when I was in high school and I remembered a lot of good things and thought I would fit in well. I left Irvine, came down here and haven’t looked back since.”

McGihon welcomed the pair to the fold.

“You can look at the psych sheets for this meet (the NCAA Championship) and see on a performance basis where they are,” McGihon said. “They are definitely two of the top athletes in Division II. More than that, what we really see is that they bring some unique and special qualities. Matt Herman has been amazing to have in the distance crew. He has been fun to coach and one of those athletes where the more you throw at him, the more he’ll take. It’s been an inspiration for some of our freshmen swimmers and people that they can swim with and someone they can get behind and cheer when they’re not racing.

And it isn't just a one-way street when it comes to learning something new.

“I have actually learned a lot about breaststroke from watching Nick swim,” McGihon said. “It seems like every time we put Nick in something new, just for fun, he goes out and swims one of the best times in the country, whether it be butterfly or IM or what have you. From that aspect, having somebody on the team that’s not afraid to go out and be fast in whatever it is that he’s swimming, you really can’t put a price tag on that.”

As McGihon noted, the psych sheets for the NCAA Championship prove the worth of both Herman and Korth to the Tritons. Herman is seeded second in the 1,650 freestyle, fifth in the 1,000 free and 10th in the 500 free. Korth is scheduled to swim four individual events and is seeded first in the 200 breaststroke, second in the 100 breast, ninth in the 200 IM and 29th in the 100 butterfly. He is also likely to compete with the Triton relay teams (400 and 800 free relays are qualified).

Both men took home individual titles from the Pacific Collegiate Swimming and Diving Conference Championships last month as the Triton men captured a third consecutive team championship.

“At conference, I went in un-rested because I had already qualified for NCAAs,” Herman said. “In some events, like the 500 (free), I tried to pace some teammates to make their cuts, so that’s where I saw my role. It was nice on the last day to take home the mile title and see where I can swim at my most tired in the season. I’m really looking forward to (the NCAA Championship meet) because I’ve had some rest and we’ll see what kind of times I can put up.”

Herman wasn't the only one who gained something from the conference title run.

“I was a little skeptical going into (the conference meet) because I had a lot of stuff to swim,” Korth said. “By the end of the meet, I swam 11 times. My morning times weren’t great, but I came back strong at night with the team behind me and was able to pull out three wins. So three first-place that way and two more firsts with the relays and I was pretty happy with that. Our team put in a lot of effort. It really shows the effort that we put in to it for the past 24 weeks.”

Korth’s title in the 200 breaststroke on the final day of the PCSD Championship set a conference and school record (1:58.56).

Both swimmers are now focused on the team race ahead of their own personal goals at the NCAA meet.

“I’m focused on what the team is going to do,” Herman said. “I would really like to bring home a trophy for the team with a top-three spot. Individually, I swim fastest if I just focus on my own race, just beat the clock, go out there and set a good pace in my events. This is the biggest stage I’ve ever performed on, so I’m really excited to see how I do under this kind of pressure and on this kind of stage.”

“Teamwise I’d obviously like to [finish] first, but if we can’t get that, top-three is always nice. I’d like to improve from last year,” Korth said. “Individually, I’m seeded first in the 200 breaststroke and second in the 100 breaststroke and I think it would be really cool if I could take home both first-place finishes. If not, I’ve had a great season and I’m happy to have done it. Nobody can take it away from me. Either way, I’m happy I’m here. I’m here to have fun and help the team score.”

McGihon is thrilled with the contributions of these two transfer students and is eager to sing their praises.

“It should be noted that Nick has set two school records this year, and at the conference championship he set not only the school record in the 100 and 200 breaststrokes, but also the conference records,” McGihon said. “Matt Herman broke the school record in the 1,650 free at a meet back in November. It was the school’s longest-standing record and had been set back in 1988.

“I think one of the neatest things I’ve ever seen was that when Matt swam that time [15:29.04], not only did he have myself and my two assistants and our team cheering for him, but the coaches at UC Davis were actually at that same meet with the women’s program that survived up there. His coaches from the previous three years were able to see him not only swim the best time, but also set a school record and qualify for the national championship, which was very special for him.”

Both Korth and Herman are thankful for the opportunity McGihon and the Tritons have provided to continue their swimming careers.

“I think I have a newfound thankfulness just to be able to continue my career,” Herman said. “There has definitely been a new fire. When something that you love is kind of ripped out from underneath you, you realize what opportunities you have left. When I came down here, I immediately fell in love with the program and the training style. It’s really nice to be a part of a women’s and men’s combined team. Right now, we have close to 30 athletes [men’s and women’s combined] I know are going to be behind me in my races and I think that really says a lot about our program in general. It’s great to have been able to continue my career and keep going for best times.”

“I’d only been swimming for three years prior to going to Irvine and I didn’t feel like I was satisfied with the swimming and I didn’t feel like I could give up on it,” Korth said. “Just having another opportunity to go back and improve myself has really been a godsend. The team is great down here. I love the training. Everyone always pushes each other. No one ever quits or slacks off. This is definitely something that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life and the work ethic that we put into it and everything else.

"It’s not just swimming. It’s a way of life for me right now.”