Nina Kucheran is just a few months away from earning her degree in Exercise Physiology. She owns a pair of Florida State’s records, in the 200 breaststroke and 200 individual medley. And she has made an impact on campus by championing mental health as a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Council.
The years have flown by for Kucheran. A native of Sudbury, Ontario, her final home meet will be on Friday when the Seminoles host Tampa on Friday at 2 p.m.
Kucheran owns not one but two FSU records — 2:08.57 in the 200 breaststroke and 1:57.56 in the 200 individual medley. It’s not a bragging point for Kucheran, it’s one of appreciation for those who have helped her excel.
“What it means to me is just gratitude,” Kucheran said. “I’m just so thankful for the experience I’ve had here over the last four years. I feel like the people I’ve met, my teammates, coaches, everything, I just feel so grateful. When I was coming in as a recruit or as a freshman, you see all these big names on the wall, or you follow on social media, people breaking records.
“To be able to come in here and feel like I’m really making a contribution, getting my name out there as well and breaking some records, I’m just really grateful for that. I love the sport. I love the people.”
Kucheran grew up in Canada, competing on Sudbury’s club swim team since she was 8. Unsure of whether to stay in Canada for college or come to the U.S., she began reaching out to schools. FSU was very interested.
“There are some really good swimming programs in Canada,” Kucheran said. “So I wasn’t too sure which way I wanted to go yet. But immediately reached out to Florida State, got an email back from Neal (Studd), connected with him over the phone a few times. And it just sounded like there were some really good resources down here. The program was obviously doing really well, he had one of the top breastrokers in the country at the time, Natalie Pierce, who is one of my good friends still.
“Took a few trips down to other schools in the US and came to FSU. And as soon as I came here, I kind of just got this feeling in my stomach that this was where I wanted to be. So that’s kind of how I ended up here. Best decision I ever made.”
Kucheran has lofty ambitions. She’d like to earn All-America honors this spring, which is well within her reach considering her times in the 200 breaststroke as well as the 200 IM. And after taking a break from school to focus on swimming she would like to go to medical school.
Beginning at FSU as a biology major, Kucheran felt it was the best pre-med path. Another swimmer outlined the concept of taking exercise physicology, which would allow her to take her pre-med classes while also learning about the body’s mechanics and of course how to apply it to swimming.
“I learned a lot about human nutrition and the body and just things that I can actually use in what I do,” Kucheran said. “Love it.”
Through discussions with FSU’s coaches as well as professors, Kucheran warmed up to the concept of tapering. Instead of intense training that builds up toward championship meets, tapering is a concept that learning to back off in the weeks before those meets give your body a chance to rest but perform at your best. Kucheran had never done it in Canada and was reluctant.
“So when I got to FSU, and this whole taper idea was introduced to me, I didn’t like it, it sounded foreign to me, it just sounded like I wasn’t you weren’t working as hard and you were missing out on practices and meters. As I got further along in my degree in classes like applied physiology and exercise testing, you learn that your body actually needs taper to be able to perform at its optimal level.”
Kucheran has been practicing (and tapering) to maximize her best results. After the meet with Tampa, a group of Seminoles will also compete at Auburn and Georgia in February, with the ACC championships taking place in Atlanta from Feb. 15-19 and the NCAA meet is also at a familiar pool on the Georgia Tech campus in March.
“The team that we have this year is really, really special,” Kucheran said. “We all have really good chemistry. And I’m just really excited for this upcoming championship season, especially because it’s combined men and women (meets) to be able to see the men swim really fast and the women. It’s just going to be a really great way to finish out the season.”
She has also been active with SAAC, which features members of all of FSU men’s and women’s athletics teams and organizes community service events, opens lines of communication between athletes and their sports and focuses on the welfare of student-athletes. Kucheran has served in a variety of roles, including secretary this academic year.
“SAAC has actually probably been one of my favorite parts of my undergraduate experience,” Kucheran said. “It’s been a really neat experience to be able to network with different athletes across campus that I normally wouldn’t be put in contact with and just have a lot of opportunities to represent Florida State not just at the swimming level, but on a personal level of how it is to be an athlete here and try and give an athlete’s perspective on things to change culture and different things.”
Kucheran has been a key part of the organization’s effort to help the mental health of athletes, who are juggling the time management of demands in their sport as well as classroom.
“We work with different areas to increase the conversation about the mental health stigma on campus,” Kucheran said. “We’ve been doing some social media posts of mental health tips, things you can do to help your mental health but really just promoting the conversation. I feel like in athletics, it’s something where you can go to the training room when you’re injured, but for an injury that you can always see it’s always met with the same expectations. So we’ve really been working this year to try and promote that conversation and do things just to let athletes know that it’s OK to seek help.
“That’s something that I struggled with a lot my first years here, my mental health. And it’s something that, thankfully, with the help of professionals and good teammates, and good coaches, I’ve kind of got on the right track. But if I didn’t have those opportunities, who knows where I’d be? So it’s something, coming back to gratitude, and being able to work with SAAC to make a change.”