Cal swimmer Destin Lasco, BS 24, on chasing mentor Ryan Murphy’s records and his own Olympic dream

Man wearing goggles and swim cap with arm stretched up in swimming pool during competition
Destin Lasco, BS 24, at the NCAA championships in Indianapolis last month, where he broke the NCAA and American men’s 200 backstroke record. Cal Athletics photo: Justin Casterline.

As a UC Berkeley freshman, Destin Lasco, BS 24, of the Cal Men’s Swimming & Diving team, emerged as one of the nation’s best backstrokers. Now a senior at Haas, he’s just returned from the NCAA championships in Indianapolis, where he broke the NCAA and American men’s 200 backstroke record. (He also swims the individual medley and freestyle.) Fresh off of that victory, Lasco, a three-time USA Swimming National Team member, is training for the 2024 Olympic trials in Paris this summer. 

In this interview, he discussed balancing class at Haas with training, his friendship with fellow backstroker and Olympic gold medal winner Ryan Murphy, BS 17, and how his parents inspired him to study business.

Can you tell us about your background? Where did you grow up?

I’m from New Jersey. I studied at Mainland Regional High School. When I was going through my recruiting process, my second choice was Stanford. But the reason why I wanted to come to Cal was just how real it was and how the education system here sets you up the best for life. When I was hanging out with all of the athletes at Cal, they emulated this energy of, “Nothing is handed to you. You’ve got to earn it.” And that’s how life is. And that was the reason why I came to Cal, to set myself up for life outside the pool. 

That was the reason why I came to Cal, to set myself up for life outside the pool. 

How did you get into swimming?

three boys standing in a swimming pool
Lasco (left) with his brother and a family friend.

I lived near the Jersey Shore. When my brother was 5 years old, he was crabbing with my uncle, and the rope caught around his ankle, and he fell in with the trap. He didn’t know how to swim, so my uncle had to dive in and save him. When that incident happened, my parents said, ‘You guys have to know how to swim.’ So we went to the Atlantic City Aquatic Club 15 minutes from our house. One of the requirements to make the team was to swim a lap, and my brother was able to swim the lap. So they took him. But when it was my turn, I couldn’t do the full lap. After private lessons for six months, I went back and barely swam the lap. Since my brother was already showing promise of being a top athlete, they said, ‘We’ll just take the younger brother, too.” And the rest is history. 

Yes, you went on to swim at Cal and be named the 2021 Pac-12 Freshman Swimmer of the Year. What do you love about swimming? 

What I love about swimming is the grind aspect. You do it because you love it. Swimming taught me so many things about discipline.  I’ve also learned about that from Ryan Murphy, who is a Haas grad.  He showed me a whole different perspective—how you eat, how you sleep, how you do time management, building a routine. The most valuable advice he gave me was about consistency, making sure you’re giving 100% every day. 

The most valuable advice he gave me was about consistency, making sure you’re giving 100% every day. 

How did you meet Ryan? 

I’ve been chasing his national records ever since I was a young kid around 11, 12 years old. I always knew the name. I met him officially in 2017 and got to talk to him a little bit. But he wasn’t at Cal yet. I wasn’t committed or anything. He just knew me as a kid coming up through the ranks. That’s when our relationship started to blossom. And then, he ended up coming here and became my training partner. We practice every single day, and we have lockers next to each other. I just try to be a sponge around him and learn as much as I can and not to bother the man too much. 

I’ve been chasing his national records ever since I was a young kid around 11, 12 years old.

USA Swimming men's 4x100 medley gold medal winners
Ryan Murphy, BS 17 (left), and USA swimming teammates Caeleb Dressel, Zach Apple, and Michael Andrew at the medal ceremony for the men’s 4 x 100 medley in 2021.  Lasco will chase his Olympic dream in Paris. Photo: Oliver Weiken/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

How do you manage your time, balancing school and practice? 

The things I allocate time for are recovery—massage, stretching, sleeping, making sure I’m hydrating well. And then comes studying, making sure I’m  doing my homework and going to office hours when I need it. And then, the third thing is nutrition—not eating out a lot and trying to cook my own meals. I just had lunch with (my roommate and Haas undergraduate) Cal swimmer Björn Seeliger (BS 25). We made a seared steak with a mushroom sauce, and we had kale salad with fruit. It was so good.

Your NCAA race was called a ‘composed, patient swim,’ because you were in fifth at the half before suddenly pulling ahead. How do you feel about breaking the national record in the 200 backstroke

It feels good. But the goodness I feel is because somebody else broke it three weeks before I did, and I was like, “That has to be a Cal record.” I cannot let that record fall into anyone’s hands. So it felt great to do it after I kept missing it and was trying to find ways to get there. To see it finally happen was amazing. 

man standing next to olympic sized pool holding swim cap
NCAA champion Destin Lasco is gearing up for the Olympic trials in Paris this summer. Cal Athletics photo: Justin Casterline.

What did you do to celebrate?

Coach Dave (Durden) gave us two days off. So I got to enjoy Easter, which was nice—just lay down and do nothing. But that’s about it. I’m back in the grind now because of the Olympic trials that are 11 weeks away. I really just want to use the momentum from NCAAs to carry me through the summer. 

What would competing at the Olympics mean to you?

I always say this, but it’s a dream. It’s like that white whale you chase. So it’s the white whale I’ve been chasing, and it would be a dream come true. 

What do you love about the backstroke? 

I love backstroke because you can breathe the whole time. Your face is not in the water and that’s huge. You also start in the water, so you don’t have to worry about your goggles coming off during your race. And also, backstroke is hard. It’s an underrated stroke.You have to be very mentally tough to do it. Backstrokers are the most mentally tough swimmers. You can ask Ryan. He will agree!

Why did you want to study business? 

Seeing my parents open their own business sharpening medical equipment and the sacrifices and dedication it took. My dad and mom were working two jobs, my mom was in the casino industry because that’s really popular where I’m from. I would wake up for practice at 5 in the morning, and my dad would drive me. Just seeing the amount of passion that they had and the hustle it took, that inspired me to study business. My mom always cooked me fresh meals ,and she would sleep maybe five hours and take naps just to make my swimming dream a reality. Now, they have a mobile sharpening service; they pull up to hospitals and sharpen all their instruments.

What’s your favorite class that you’ve taken? 

Corporate Finance and Financial Analysis with Steve Etter for sure. Another class I loved was UGBA 133, Investments, with Sam Olesky. Great professor. 

three students sitting in class with laptops
Destin Lasco, BS 24, (left) is enrolled in Lecturer Steve Etter’s independent study called Financial & Business Literacy for the Professional Athlete. Photo Michaela Vatcheva

Do you want to follow in your parents’ footsteps as an entrepreneur? 

That’s a goal, but I know you have to have experience under your belt. I want to first work at a big company and learn how to work in teams and learn how to think on a macro level, so when I open my own thing, I can start micro and then build.

You are graduating this spring. What have you enjoyed about being at Haas?

Going to Haas and being in classrooms of like 30 to 50 kids, I felt like I was back in high school, where I know the professors and the GSIs on a genuine level. You take one course, and the next semester, you’re in the same course with a kid you took finance with. You get to build those really close relationships. The people here are just passionate about what they do and are passionate to pass down what they’ve learned, so I love that.

What’s your personal brand? New class helps students craft one

A man and woman bump fists to show solidarity.
Berkeley Haas Lecturer Kellie McElhaney co-teaches the class with Graduate Student Instructor André Chapman, Jr. Photo: Jim Block

“Classified” is an occasional series spotlighting some of the more powerful lessons being taught in classrooms around Haas.

On a recent Monday evening Berkeley Haas Lecturer Kellie McElhaney opened her class with a challenge, asking her students how others have defined them. “Too bossy” and “too sensitive” were among the responses that McElhaney quickly urged them to dismiss or proudly own as they began a journey of how to describe themselves.

“What do you want your brand to be?” she asked the class of 48 students, most of them Cal athletes—a group that’s at the heart of her new class, Equity Fluent Leadership & Personal Brand. It’s designed to teach primarily Cal student athletes and undergraduates how to create personal brands. 

This class comes after California and eight other states passed laws in 2019 that allowed college athletes to benefit from their names, images, or likenesses (NIL). In July 2021, the NCAA followed suit and adopted its own NIL policy for all college athletes. Similar to professional athletes, college athletes can now engage in sponsorships and receive cash payments and gifts. However, the policy continues to preclude students from entering pay-for-play contracts with colleges and universities.

“The NIL policy is in its infancy right now and many college athletes haven’t fully grasped the policy in its entirety,” said McElhaney, who’s also the founding executive director of the Center for Equity, Gender and Leadership. “My hope is that I can give students the tools to discover who they are and what they stand for, regardless of whether or not they enter contracts.”

Focused on core values

The Equity Fluent Leadership & Personal Brand class has drawn the interest of many athletes, including Cal football players, swimmers, and gymnasts, five of whom are Haas students. Non-Haas students are also enrolled in the course.

college students sitting at desks in Chou Hall classroom
The Equity Fluent Leadership & Personal Brand class has drawn the interest of many athletes, including football players, swimmers, gymnasts, and non-Haas students. Photo: Jim Block

“This class has really re-energized me,” McElhaney said. “It’s bringing my three passions together: Equity Fluent Leadership, Cal athletics, and the love for my dad, my role model.” (McElhaney’s father, Harold “Hal” McElhaney, played football for the Philadelphia Eagles, coached at Duke, and went on to become the athletic director for Allegheny College and Ohio University.)

Black undergraduate student wearing blue hoodie smiles.
Cal women’s basketball player Jazlen Green, BA 22, a brand ambassador for Stoko, is working to better define “the best version of herself” in the class. Photo: Jim Block

In addition to crafting their personal brands, students explore their core values based on their social identities, learn about the power of allyship, and discover their own brand of leadership. Throughout the semester, students have been tasked with giving presentations about leaders whom they admire, finding songs to represent the soundtrack of their lives, and designing social media accounts that reflect their brands. 

Cal women’s basketball player Jazlen Green, BA 22, (sociology) has already benefited from the NIL policy, serving as a brand ambassador for compression legging company Stoko. In exchange for using Green’s name and image, Stoko gives the Cal basketball player free products. But her primary motivation for taking McElhaney’s class was to be the best version of herself.

The personal brand hero assignment, which required students to write about a leader who reflects their brand, has been the most impactful exercise, she said. 

“I had a hard time narrowing my decision to one person, which highlighted the fact that I’m multifaceted,” Green said. “I am an athlete, a student, a Black female, and a creator.” 

Cal baseball player Garret Nielsen, BS 22, said he took the class to learn more about himself and to become more empathetic. 

Male undergraduate student with cap turned backwards. He's smiling.
Cal baseball player Garret Nielsen, BS 22, enrolled in the class to become a more well-rounded and empathetic person. Photo: Jim Block

“This class asks the hard questions,” Nielsen said. “The most important lesson that this class has taught me is you have to establish a foundation of who you are before success comes.” 

Conversely, Nielsen said he’s not interested in benefiting from the NIL policy. He’d rather use his status and expertise to help children become great baseball players.

“I would have been ecstatic if a college player had helped me with my game when I was a kid,” Nielsen said. “I now have the opportunity to do just that. I think that’s the true gift of being a Cal athlete.”

Looking ahead

Over time, McElhaney hopes to expand the class to include topics such as how to read contracts, money management, and investing. She wants to bring in lawyers and more professional athletes as guest speakers. Earlier in the semester, she invited former NFL player Lorenzo Alexander to talk about the value of having a board of directors. She’s also tapped the wisdom of her graduate student instructor André Chapman, Jr., a former UCLA 400-meter hurdler who was bound for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. 

“At its heart, this is a leadership class,” McElhaney said. “Whether or not students, specifically my student athletes, enter sponsorships, this course sets them up for life.”

Congrats to our Haas Olympians

USA Swimming men's 4x100 medley gold medal winners
Ryan Murphy, BS 17 (left), and USA swimming teammates Michael Andrew, Caeleb Dressel, and Zach Apple at the medal ceremony for the men’s 4×100 medley relay on August 1. Photo: Oliver Weiken/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Congratulations to our four Haas bears competing in the Tokyo Olympics. You make us proud!

Champion backstroker Ryan Murphy, BS 17, and his teammates captured gold in the men’s 4x100m medley relay on Sunday, breaking the 12-year-old world record for the event by half a second. It was the 4th gold medal for Murphy, who served as this year’s team captain for USA swimming. Murphy also won silver in the men’s 200m backstroke, and bronze in the men’s 100m backstroke.

Golfer Collin Morikawa, BS 19, narrowly missed the bronze medal (by one stroke) and came in 4th in the men’s golf tournament.

Rising senior Alicia Wilson, BS 22, came in 8th in the women’s 200m individual medley, swimming for Great Britain.

Johnny hooperStill to come: Johnny Hooper, BS 19, will compete in the men’s water polo quarterfinals tonight (Tuesday, Aug. 3), at 10pm PDT. See full finals schedule here.




Collin Morikawa, BS 19, wins PGA Championship

Collin Morikawa holding trophy
Collin Morikawa holds the Wanamaker Trophy after winning the PGA Championship golf tournament at TPC Harding Park Sunday, Aug. 9, 2020, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Collin Morikawa, BS 19, stunned the golf world Sunday, making history as one of the youngest PGA Golf Championship winners. 

With the 2020 championship win, the Berkeley Haas alum joins an elite group of golfers, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIllory, and Jack Nicklaus, who all won the PGA Championship at age 23. 

Morikawa, who held the Wanamaker Trophy high after his win on Sunday at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, is the first Cal athlete to win a major golf championship. “The California Kid is the new star in the game of golf,” CBS announcer Jim Nantz said after the tournament ended.

“I’m on cloud nine,” Morikawa, a Los Angeles-area native, said during a post-PGA Championship press interview. “I’ve believed in myself since day one and I haven’t let up from that. I feel very comfortable in this position, but it was going to take a very good round today.”

I’ve believed in myself since day one and I haven’t let up from that.

Collin Morikawa, BS 19, at graduation
Collin Morikawa, BS 19, shakes Dean Ann Harrison’s hand at graduation.

Members of the Haas community who’ve been tracking Morikawa’s golf career successes lit up social media with congratulations after his championship win.

“I’m so proud of Collin,” said Haas Dean Ann Harrison. “Collin has always been a standout student and athlete. I’m sure this championship win will be one of many in his golf career.”

“Collin’s success on the PGA Tour was not a surprise to me based on the intelligence, attention to detail, and work ethic he showed in the classroom,” said Finance Lecturer Stephen Etter. “However, his winnings to date far exceed the modeling we did in (the class) Finance for Future Professional Athletes. He is a humble young man who has confidence without attitude. It will be wonderful for all Cal alumni to watch his success on Sundays for many years to come.”

This isn’t the first time that Morikawa has made big waves. Since turning pro in June 2019, he’s won two PGA titles, including the 2019 Barracuda Championship and the 2020 Workday Charity Open.

While a student at Berkeley, Morikawa played for the Men’s Golf Team all four seasons and was named the Pac-12 Men’s Golfer of the Year in 2019. He’s also the only athlete to be named a four-time All-American and three-time first-team All-American in Berkeley history.

Cubbie Kile, BS 20, to receive Departmental Citation for Outstanding Achievement

Portrait: Cubbie Kile
Cubbie Kile, BS 20, received the Departmental Citation for Outstanding Achievement.

As a freshman at UC Berkeley, Celia “Cubbie” Kile, BS 20, became interested in studying business while managing the Cal Men’s Swimming & Diving team, alongside Coach Dave Durden.

“Going into Haas I thought I wanted to pursue sports management,” said Kile, who pivoted at the start of junior year to pursue finance. Kile’s success as a business major led to a top honor this year, as the recipient of the Departmental Citation for Outstanding Achievement. Every year, the award goes to the graduating senior with the highest GPA.

“I feel so honored to win,” said Kile, who is also a coxswain for the Cal Women’s Rowing Team. “I’m surrounded by students who strive to the highest caliber, so receiving this award is just incredible.”

Kile, who will graduate May 18 with a 4.0 GPA, will work for Altamont Capital Partners, a private equity firm in Palo Alto, starting in August.  

Cubbie Kile and members of UC Berkeley Men's Swimming Team
Cubbie Kile, BS 20, was the manager of UC Berkeley’s Men’s Swimming and Diving Team.

At Haas, Kile took advantage of every opportunity that would prepare her for a career in private equity and venture capital, including networking with MBAs, seeking mentors through the alumni database, and doing an independent study that explored the intersection of healthcare and business with Stephen Etter, a member of the Haas professional faculty, who often advises student athletes. 

Kile said Etter, who convinced her to pursue finance instead of sports management, completely changed the trajectory of her life. “He’s my biggest inspiration,” she said. 

She said she shifted to finance, drawn by the good that money can do. “If you target it to something that’s beneficial to all, you can make a larger impact on society,” she said. 

Etter said Kile “is an amazing woman who excelled in and out of the classroom,” with boundless energy. “It’s as if she cloned herself or created the 30-hour day,” he said. “Everything she did was at an exceptional level.”

Among her proudest moments while at Haas was spearheading a Women in Finance Speaker Series, attended by finance executives who spoke about their career paths. 

Cubbie Kile with rowers
Cubbie Kile (pictured left, kneeling, with UC Berkeley’s Women’s Rowing Team.

Kile is not only a standout student, she has also served as a coxswain for Berkeley’s Women’s Rowing Team. Rowing, she said, has taught her patience, resilience, discipline, and how to lead a team–essential skills for a career in private equity. 

“Being a cox, it takes a lot of leadership and communication skills,” Kile said. “You have to have a fire within you and the ability to have trust from others and for others to trust you.”

Coming to Berkeley and enrolling at Haas has been one of the best decisions she has ever made, she said. 

“Berkeley has given me so much,” she said. “It’s made me who I am today and I’m very happy about where I’m going in the future.”