Big Ten Senior Spotlight: Danny Tucker from Purdue University

Over the last two years, it has seemed that every time that Purdue senior Danny Tucker steps up on the blocks, something special is bound to happen. This has been especially true since the end of Danny’s sophomore year, when he claimed third place at the 2012 Big Ten Championships in the 50 free in a 19.66, and he would receive the opportunity to swim at NCAAs for the first time following his spectacular performance at conference that year.

The summer following his sophomore year, Tucker continued his steady ascent by recording lifetime bests at the 2012 US Open Championships in Indianapolis in the 50 free (22.79) and 100 free (50.90), with both swims occurring in finals sessions. These personal bests following a successful collegiate season really got him going, and they also set the stage for what would be a breakout year for the Naperville, Illinois native. Tucker cruised to career bests in both the 50 and 100 free at the 2013 Big Ten Championships, and both swims earned him 2nd place finishes. Though his 19.35 in the 50 free just missed the Purdue school record of 19.34 held by Andrew Langenfeld from 2009, Tucker’s 42.84 in the 100 clipped the previous school record of 43.08 also from 2009.

Aside from his individual efforts, Tucker also provided some extraordinary efforts while on relay duty at Big Tens. While anchoring Purdue’s 4th place finishing 400 freestyle relay, he scorched the first 50 in a 19.65 split which helped him bypass anchor legs from Penn State and Northwestern en route to a monstrous 41.99 leg. Tucker’s leg was the fastest 100 split of the entire meet in both the 400 free relay and the 400 medley relay (tied with Bruno Ortiz’s anchor split from the 400 medley relay), and he also posted the second fastest split of the 400 medley relay with his 42.42 freestyle split.

Tucker’s heroics did not end with his collegiate season though. If anything, he really pushed his limits at the 2013 US Open Championships when he won the 100 meter freestyle title in a field that included Olympian Darian Townsend, US Open butterfly champion Tim Phillips, and NCAA 200 freestyle champion Dax Hill. Tucker’s time of 49.11 was easily his best time compared to his previous performances entering the meet, and he also recorded a personal best in the 50 free with a 7th placed effort of 22.39. Throw in the fact that he also had a 48.60 anchor leg on the Boilermakers’ 400 freestyle relay, and it is safe to say that Tucker really came into his own last August.

With his senior season almost in the books, Tucker is another sprinter in the Big Ten who has little to lose and unlimited potential, especially “under the lights”. Tucker has already demonstrated that he can perform in high-pressure situations and he also tends to swim faster at night, and these are both key traits in successful swimmers well beyond the collegiate realm. Although Purdue may not necessarily steal the show at Big Tens, there is no telling how fast Danny will go, and his storyline next week will surely be one of the most closely watched from competitors and spectators alike.

Best Times (SCY/LCM):
50 free: 19.35/22.39
100 free: 42.84/49.11
200 free: 1:41.12/1:57.55

School Major/Degree: Civil Engineering
Favorite Event: 50 free
Favorite Hobby/Hidden Talent: Ruining other people’s pictures
Favorite Movie: Batman Begins
Role Model Growing Up/ Person You’d Like to Meet: Jason Lezak
Favorite Food/ Pre-Race Meal: Bacon Cheeseburgers

At what age did you become involved with swimming? How did you get into it?

5, the neighborhood swim team was cheaper than swim lessons

What is your favorite collegiate swimming memory and why?

US Opens last summer, I enjoy every taper meet for what they are: a week of goofing around with my teammates, fast swimming, and good food. But Jason Lezak handing me a gold medal certainly made the past US Open stand out.

Last summer, you enjoyed perhaps your most successful summer season yet as you took the 100 freestyle title at the US Open Championships in Irvine, CA. How has that success helped you prepare for your final season at Purdue University?

I dropped more time than I expected so I updated my goals with a big smile, but heading into each race needs to be a clean slate. Especially in the sprint events where every hundredth matters, it’s important not to take any race for granted.

You were the runner-up at last year’s Big Ten Championships in both the 50 and 100-yard freestyles behind Michigan’s Bruno Ortiz, who will return for his junior season this year. With a very deep sprinting field returning this year across the Big Ten including four top 8 returners in the 50 free and five top 8 returners in the 100, how excited are you to race for both event titles this year?

It’s always fun racing Ortiz, and Toomey from Minnesota, between the three of us we’ve all had head to head wins and losses, so there’s no predicting what the next race will be like.

With USC standout Vlad Morozov going pro and foregoing his senior year eligibility, there are numerous swimmers across the country now vying for the top spot in both the 50 and 100 free at NCAAs. Though Big Tens is the first stop in your championship schedule, has the thought of competing for a national title also been a factor at all during your training mentality this season?

Big Tens is the big focus right now, as far as NCAA’s, I find it’s best not to over think it, especially not this early. I know the Big Ten will have a strong showing in the sprint events as well as several other events. (200 back will be fun to watch)

Where did the team go for training trip this year? What was it like?

Honolulu, HI, with an early morning practice and a relatively late afternoon practice, there was plenty of downtime to enjoy the beaches, mountains, food, and still have time for a nap.

What/who do you think has been the single most important catalyst to your swimming career?

Coach J, All my coaches have worked with my abundant weaknesses to get me to the next level of competition, but J has worked with my strengths and weaknesses to the point of a specific personalized training.

Do you have any plans/commitments following the completion of your collegiate career?

I have another year to finish my degree, and will continue training with Purdue. After graduation there is another year until 2016 trials, as far as training, I’m confident that staying at Purdue would be my best option.

What should we look forward to from Purdue as a whole at this year’s Big Ten Championships?

Fast swimming, great diving, and loud cheering

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It’s very tough to mix engineering course work with swimming. Kudos to Tucker!


Boiler Up!


Glad to see he will be a Civil Engineer. The worst kind of engineer are the uncivil ones.

About Varun Shivakumar

Varun Shivakumar hails from Hoffman Estates, IL and swam competitively for 16 years. He swam both backstroke events at Northwestern University, and ranks fifth in the school’s All-time performances list in the 200 yard backstroke. Representing NASA Wildcat Aquatics, he also competed in the 2012 Olympic Trials in Omaha, NE …

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