Trials and Tribulations: Evan Swenson Update
By Mike Gustafson//Correspondent
It’s tough being a multi-sport athlete. It’s a balancing act that 17-year-old Evan Swenson knows all too well. This spring, instead of swimming, the NASA Aquatics (IL) high school junior played water polo. Swenson is now back in the water preparing for the Olympic Trials. With three weeks of swimming practices under her belt, Swenson is more excited than ever to be competing at the Olympic Trials. She has the support of her coaches (both swimming and water polo) and it’s wonderful to see a recognition that balancing many aspects of life could be the key to success. All too often we see young swimmers “burn out” or live unbalanced lifestyles. I’ve always said, “Happy swimmers are fast swimmers.”
This week we catch up with Swenson as she discusses her decision to play high school water polo this spring, and how that has helped her appreciate the sport of swimming and the build-up to the Olympic Trials, which is just one week away....
How has taper been going?
I’m not in taper. I decided this spring I wanted to play water polo. I don’t swim the 50 until the last day, and my coach doesn’t want to over-taper me, so I haven’t started yet. I’m going to start tapering, but at this point I want to get the most yardage in as possible. I didn’t train after Junior Nationals. I swam once or twice a week, so I had little yardage. So once water polo season ended, I’ve been training three weeks now.
How did high school water polo go?
It was good. I was happy I was on the team. But we lost our entire starting line-up from last year. So it was a little rough. But it was good to be with the team.
Why the decision to play polo?
I thought I would swim all the way through to Trials, and I want to play polo my senior year. There are no Trials next year. But I thought if I left [the water polo team] junior year then came back, I thought it would be disrespectful to the team. I was the only one with varsity experience. So I came back with the girls and to play for the school.
Did your swimming coaches understand?
Alec [Hayden, NASA coach] was extremely understanding. Even though he’d love for me to continue swimming, he was very understanding and supportive. Both coaches, swimming and water polo, are understanding.
What are you swimming at Trials?
I’m swimming just the 50, which is the last day.
Does water polo keep you in swimming shape?
Surprisingly when I came back to swimming, I was mostly in shape. Swimming the 50 is a lot of power. I think – I don’t want to assume – but I think polo helped me with my power. I lifted throughout the polo season. Hopefully polo will help me out. I’ve been getting back into the habit of going to practice once a day. I think I can do pretty well at Trials. It’s just a 50. I don’t have to “hold on.” It’s just nailing my starts and the finish.
So have the last three weeks been super intense swim training?
It’s been pretty intense the last three weeks. We went to Omaha for the invitational meet. Our team got to rest that week, but I had to continue swimming and cardio. It’s hard, but it’s been good with my coaches. I’ve only been doing three weeks of training, so I can’t complain.
I know you have a lot of different things to juggle right now. What’s the #1 thing you want to focus on between now and your 50m race?
Just my stroke. Water polo didn’t completely mess up my stroke, but it took away that focus of what I need to do during races. Just working on my stroke and my power from the blocks.
Any predictions how fast you’ll go at Trials?
I’d love to break 26 seconds. But I’m going to the US Open at the end of the summer. Whatever happens at Trials, I’m going for the experience. After Trials I’ll bring my yardage back up and see what happens at the US Open.
Do you think this “break” you took playing polo gives you an advantage?
Last year was the first year I trained year round. I could tell by the end of the winter, I was losing it mentally. I needed a break. I want to swim in college. I know that I can. I know I’m ready for the continuous swimming in college. But I think it’s better I took a break and realized how much I missed swimming. I think it’s good. I’m more prepared and extremely excited. I don’t know if it’s an advantage, but I’m going in with – I think it’s better to take a break with water polo. I think I’m a lot more excited than I would have been.
So is water polo on the horizon for senior year?
After Trials I’m definitely doing water polo. In the winter I’ll join a club water polo team. I won’t do basketball this year. I really want to swim in college, but if there’s an opportunity that opens with water polo, that could be a possibility. But at this point, swimming is what I want to do.
Is your family going to Trials to watch?
Yeah. My mom and dad are coming. They’ll be there to watch me. Actually I have a NASA teammate Andrew Jonovich. He is going to swim there, too. And there’s another kid (Kevin Quinn) who just joined our team who qualified in the 200 fly. So I’m excited they’ll be there with me.
You have one more year of high school before you head off to college. Is this meet a great way to kick off your senior year?
Yeah. So excited. It’s going to be awesome.
What are you most looking forward to about the meet itself?
Seeing all these amazing swimmers. And getting the experience of going to a high level competition. Seeing how I can handle it. Seeing how these swimmers train and work so hard. Maybe in four years at the next Olympic Trials I can do that.
Are you excited?
Yeah. (Laughs.) A little nervous…