Trials Reflections: Evan Swenson
By Mike Gustafson//Correspondent
For Evan Swenson, a rising senior high school swimmer in Illinois, the Olympic Trials was a thrilling experience. But just three days before her 50 freestyle, Swenson got food poisoning. We conclude our “Trials and Tribulations” series with Swenson’s story, her reflection on her Olympic Trials journey, battling food poisoning at the biggest meet of her career, and what’s ahead…
How did you do in your sprint event?
I didn’t think I did very well. It was fine. I actually got food poisoning. I did some time trails at the Olympic Trials before my 50. I didn’t swim very well before my 100 free time trial. I was nervous and overwhelmed. I got on the blocks beforehand and was like “Oh my god, I’m at the Olympic Trials.” I freaked out and psyched myself out. I didn’t have much time to make up for a bad start and bad finish. It was just overwhelming.
Food poisoning? That’s awful. What happened?
It was something I ate. I don’t know what it was, something that morning for breakfast. After warming up, I did not feel good. I sprinted to the bathroom and was throwing up all night. It was 3 days before the 50. I was nervous, and didn’t have a good race.
Did anyone else get food poisoning?
Yes. There were four or five other kids who also got food poising.
How did that affect you going into the 50?
I don’t know. I had such a bad 100 free, I didn’t know if I was ready for it. Getting on the block, I was so nervous. I just psyched myself out. But honestly, I’m fine with it because the Olympic Trials, just being there, was one of the greatest experiences of my life.
What were your thoughts before the 50?
I think especially in the 50, you walk all the way around the pool, and that entire time you’re standing there, you’re just getting nervous. I get nervous before all my races. Everyone was standing there with music on. I don’t listen to music. One of my friends was standing next to me and saying, “I’m so nervous right now” and I was like, “Yeah, same!” There’s not a lot of time before you get up to the blocks. The butterflies were building. I dove off the blocks and was all over the place. I didn’t think. I touched the wall. And it wasn’t the time I wanted to see. But I am fine with it.
What was it like, as a high schooler, swimming in a meet that featured many older competitors?
There are definitely a lot of older college girls. Last summer was the first summer I went to Grand Prix meets. So it was a little overwhelming seeing all the big colleges together. We went with the Northwestern team, so that was nice, but there were just 3 of us high school swimmers wandering around, looking at these huge teams. It was a little overwhelming, but I’ve been to a few Grand Prix meets before. I expected to see older competitors. That aspect wasn’t as overwhelming, but there were big teams there.
You had a shorter taper this year because you were playing water polo. Do you think that decision affected your Olympic Trials race? Do you have any regrets?
I do not regret playing water polo at all. I think it definitely affected how I ended up doing, especially at the U.S. Open. Tapering off of nothing, even though it is a sprint, my stroke wasn’t where it was supposed to be. I didn’t have enough time in the pool with Alec, my coach, working on my stroke. It definitely affected my end of the year taper with Trials and the U.S. Open.
So you kept swimming after Trials?
I got back home, and I took a day off. I went back into the pool. I got back up my yardage and tapered at the U.S. Open. I didn’t do very well. I swam the 100 free and I time trialed the 100 breast and 50 free.
So, what’s going on now with your swimming career? Are you swimming high school right now?
Yeah. Right after the U.S. Open, the next morning was high school season. Right now we’re in high school season. We’ve had 4 dual meets already.
What are your goals this senior year?
I think especially being a senior, my last year, I just want our team to do as well as we can. Even if it’s not a trophy at state. I just want to have the girls be as happy with their swims as possible. We have a lot of freshmen. I want their experience to be awesome. I just want them to have such a great year. I think we can get a trophy this year, but if not, I just want them to enjoy the high school season. It’s completely different from club. I want them to have a great year. And I want the seniors to leave happy and know that their high school career was good.
I know you’re a multi-sport athlete. What’s your future with the sport of swimming?
I’m swimming in college. I’ve set up four recruiting trips in October. I will probably play club water polo. I will continue swimming next summer until college.
Looking back at your Olympic Trials journey, what’s the one thing you took from it?
A cool thing that happened at the Trials: Conor Dwyer went to Loyola Academy, where I go to high school. He made it to the Olympics and got a gold medal. Then he came back and talked to us a few weeks ago. He talked about growing up in the same community I did, and under the same coach I have, and those same experiences and how they shaped who he is. He ended up being an Olympian. Seeing him at Trials, coming from the same position I am in, it gives me some hope that things could go well for me. Not talking the Olympics, but just having a good college swimming career. He grew up in the same neighborhood I did. He swam in college. It was really inspiring and gave me hope for my future swimming career.
What advice did he give you about swimming?
He just said have fun with it. Especially because it’s my senior year. Make your best of it and enjoy it and enjoy swimming.
A lot of younger readers, especially kids involved with more than one sport, will probably read this and want some advice. What advice do you have for kids in other sports who also swim?
If you really love your sport, keep doing it as long as you can. I’m so happy I continued playing water polo. It’s one of the best decisions I made. If you’re playing 3 sports, it’s hard, but I know people who have done it and are successful. Try to keep playing them as long as possible and really enjoy it. When you do have to pick one sport in college, do one that you love doing, and not the one you might be better at. Just do the one that you love doing.