By Bob Schaller//Correspondent
Allison Schmitt put together one of the great back-to-back international/college seasons, going from Beijing to Georgia, and then to Worlds and back to Georgia, winning medals and NCAA titles. After taking this past summer as a learning experience, she decided to redshirt at Georgia, and move to NBAC, training under Bob Bowman, under whom she trained to make the 2008 team when she was at Club Wolverine in her native Michigan. She explains what’s going on in this week’s 20 Question Tuesday.
1. How’s it going?
Allison: It’s good. We’re just training hard right now. It’s tough redshirting and being out of school, but I am having a lot of fun in Baltimore.
2. Tough decision to redshirt?
Allison: I knew I wanted to focus on this Olympics so I decided to take off from school for this school year. I moved to Baltimore to train with Bob again like I did before 2008. I think that I just needed to make a change and do my best. It’s kind of hard at times being away from Athens, and my friends and teammates, but it’s a lot of fun here still.
3. How supportive were your coaches?
Allison: I talked to both (Georgia head coach) Jack (Bauerle) and Bob (Bowman) about it. Jack was completely supportive, and thought it was a great idea. I was lucky that Bob would take me in to swim with him again, like he did before 2008. I’m lucky to have two great coaches the past four years.
4. Pretty amazing to have your club and college coaches both be Olympic coaches – isn’t it?
Allison: It’s definitely special. They are both great coaches. They both know what they are doing. They have so much to offer. Even the teams, both the Georgia team and here, have been great, very positive atmospheres.
5. You are still going to finish school, so it’s a win-win situation, right?
Allison: There’s nothing to lose. I’m still going back to school for my last year. I made my decision and am going full force with it. I don’t know how much longer I’ll swim, maybe to the next Olympics (2016), maybe not; it depends on a lot of things. This is my best shot right now. I am focused on it completely and will not have any regrets.
6. Great places to eat out in Baltimore, isn’t there?
Allison: There really are, a lot. But I have been cooking on my own, too. Being away from the dining hall, that’s definitely been different. In Baltimore, there is this great Farmer’s Market – I’m sure they have these everywhere, this is just something I have (laughs) recently discovered – but the one I found here is really great, and has a lot of good food.
7. Go to any Ravens games?
Allison: I haven’t been to a Ravens game, but shopping is really good here, so I do that a lot. Of course, that is not always the best (laughs) thing for me to be doing, but walking around town here is pretty neat.
8. What’s it like training with Michael Phelps again?
Allison: He definitely knows exactly what he has to do, and how to do it. It’s definitely a positive atmosphere around the whole group, a great place to train.
9. How is it different now as a college senior training for the Olympics compared to before, when you were still in high school?
Allison: I think I have matured a lot. I was definitely way more naïve back when I was 16 or 17 and had no idea what I was doing. Throughout the years, I matured a lot. Even my relationship with Bob has changed. He really seeks out my input now. Before I was just like, “What am I supposed to do?” A lot of the times now, he trusts that I know what to do.
10. Going from all the college women to swimming club – is that different?
Allison: It is a lot different. Before when I swam club at Michigan, I was the little high schooler. Now, my situation is more similar to a post grad, and it’s definitely weird being one of the older ones!
11. Georgia’s football team – no national title again this year, right?
Allison: Hey! They are getting it together. I have faith in them. They are on a winning streak now. People just have to have faith.
12. What’s that mascot like, the little bulldog?
Allison: Isn’t he adorable? He doesn’t bite unless you are mean to him – or you are from Auburn or Florida! Hey, I’m just joking about the biting, by the way. I met him on the field when we were getting our SEC rings. I stood right next to him, got my face right up against his, and he never bit me.
13. Your events are as competitive as ever, how do you deal with that heading toward Olympic Trials?
Allison: I think I just have to block it out and do what I have to do. I know there is a lot of competition both nationally and internationally. I just have to know that I put in the work, and that’s what I’m doing now. This summer was definitely a learning experience, figuring out what race strategies work best for me at this point in my career, and that set me up well for the upcoming year.
14. You mention those amazing college teammates at Georgia – is that adjustment hard?
Allison: It’s definitely a big change, a huge change. I went from training with 50 people my age and now there are 10 my age from 15 to 26. That’s definitely a big change. I just go in with a positive attitude and make it as much fun as it can be. It’s definitely fun. It can be hard at times being away from friends at school, but we all get along really well here and try to make practice enjoyable.
15. So is Bob Bowman making an IMer out of you?
Allison: Yeah, that’s my question to him every day, “When am I going to be put in the 400 IM?
Hah, not likely. I’d probably (laughs) get lapped in the middle part of it, but that’s the only thing scaring me away! Lately we have been working on a lot of backstroke – a lot of IM – and even some breaststroke.
16. Does that mean you actually will do other strokes in competition?
Allison: Well, hopefully we’ll venture out to other events, but I’m mostly a freestyler, and that’s my focus.
17. How much fun have you had – and will you have again next year – swimming in college? I take it you highly recommend it?
Allison: Yes, of course. I love college swimming. Even swimming short course in practice … I miss that already! It’s definitely a big change. I feel like I just wanted to focus on long course and not so much worrying about NCAA taper and then a few months later tapering for Trials was in my best interest right now - having the focus on Olympics and Trials. For me, personally, the best thing for me to do this year was take the year off from college and focus more on long course.
18. But I understand there are some teammates at NBAC close to your age who are pretty awesome, right?
Allison: Absolutely, Meredith Budner from Towson (University), who is outstanding, is here. She was a senior last season, and I found her on Facebook. She was looking for a roommate, so we talked and ended up living together, and there’s another Towson swimmer who graduated early also living with us, so I still hang out with swimmers. It’s a lot of fun living with them. As you know I am pretty talkative and pretty loud, so I’ve been able to meet our neighbors and have some pretty good random conversations with the new people I am meeting.
19. Who else is at NBAC these days?
Allison: We have some pretty fast up and comers. Camryne Morris, who is a distance swimmer, trains fast and she’s just 16, though she turns 17 this month – she’s been swimming really well under Bob and just flying in practice. Chase Kalisz, who will be a teammate of mine at Georgia next year, is really strong, and I think Michael having Chase to race in the IM and breaststroke has made them both better.
20. How amazing has this journey been for you as a swimmer these past years?
Allison: You know, I didn’t start swimming competitively until I was 10 and didn’t really focus on it until I was 12, yet it’s such a huge part of my life and I can’t imagine my life without it. It’s been an amazing journey, but more than that, it’s shaped who I am as a person. The best part is all the friends I have made. I believe that I literally have the best friends anyone could ever imagine hoping for, and I met almost all of them because of swimming. Taking in all the memories with these amazing people, I feel pretty lucky with the paths I have crossed, and the people I have met because of swimming.