Trials and Tribulations: Evan Swenson, Part 1


By Mike Gustafson/Correspondent

Each month, as part of our “Trials and Tribulations” series, we’ll give you an inside look at an Olympic Trials qualifier. If you have a story to share, please email Trials.Tribulations.2012@gmail.com.

Balancing high school and competitive swimming is no easy task. Not only are there significant time constraintsEvan Swenson (medium), but also the pressures with being a prodigal high school athlete. This week we interview Evan Swenson, a 17-year-old swimmer from Loyola High School In Illinois who is relatively new to the rigors of year-round competitive swimming. She has qualified for the Olympic Trials in the 50 freestyle, and trains year-round at NASA. Here is Part One of the interview.

Where are you at in your training?
Well, I finished high school season a month ago. I went to Winter Nationals. Then after Nationals I took two weeks off. I’m just getting back into training. I did one-a-week last week, and doubles are starting next week every day until we taper for Juniors in March. Our program is a sprinter program, based on power and sprint specializing. We do a lot of yardage, but we focus a lot on stroke.

Have you always been doing doubles?
Actually I just became a full time swimmer. I played basketball and water polo. I’m not used to competitive swimming year-round. Last summer I got used to doubles.. It took a while to adjust. This summer was hard. I love swimming, so it’s fine, but it’s hard. You have to get used to it.

Are you now dedicating yourself to swimming full time?
Water polo is in the spring. I’m pretty sure I’m not going to train polo so I can train for the Trials. I’ll definitely play water polo next year. That’s something I want to do. I was playing basketball my freshmen and sophomore year. I am a better swimmer than basketball player. I used to think basketball was definitely going to be my sport, but then swimming – high school swimming changed all of that.

How did you do this last high school season?
Overall the team, we placed 4th in the state, which was very good this year. This year was good. Our team was happy. We had two seniors on the team, we worked the hardest we ever worked. I swam the 50 free, and I got 2nd to a very, very talented swimmer who will do well at the Olympic Trials. (Olivia Smoliga). 2nd was the highest I ever finished.

How do you balance high school and competitive swimming?
It’s a lot of work swimming twice a day, and homework that you have to study for. I know these next 6 months are going to be harder, training for the Trials, placing as high as I can, and the college process. It helps that my parents can guide me and push me and are always there to help. That helps. There’s not too much pressure, and they support my decisions. Junior year matters a lot.

Is being mentally tough important as a sprinter?
I think so. Obviously distance swimmers, you have to really, really love swimming [laughs] to be a distance swimmer. As a sprinter, once you get up there, you’ve done everything you could. Especially at high school state. You train and taper, shut your mind off and go. You have to prepare right before, one little mistake and it’s done.

Is it intimidating, racing against older, more experienced swimmers?
I remember this summer was my first Grand Prix. I used to swim with a YMCA team. The first time I went, it was overwhelming. Not gonna lie. Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps are sitting next to you like it’s not a big deal. Coach always says though, “You deserve to be here just as much as they do. You qualified.” Mentally, I’m almost there. This is something I wanted to do – I think I’m almost there. I’m very nervous about the Olympic Trials – everyone together, the best high school swimmers, the best college swimmers all together. I’m getting there mentally.

Do your friends know how good of a swimmer you are?
They think I’m a little better than what I actually am. [Laughs.] When someone would say something about the Olympic Trials, someone would say, “Evan’s going to the Olympics this year!” Obviously I haven’t qualified yet. Some of them realize I can’t do some social things on the weekends. They understand that swimming takes a lot of my life. They assume I’m at practice “Oh, she’s an Olympian.” A lot of them are really understanding.

Are you excited about the upcoming Olympic Trials?
I’m definitely thinking about it a lot. Especially when I get to practice. Some of my coaches just graduated, they talk about how awesome it is and how I will experience it. I definitely think about it a lot. My training every day is specifically for the Olympic Trials. Everything I put into it helps me get better for the big meet. Talking about it right now makes me nervous. [Laughs.]