By Bob Schaller//Contributor | Tuesday, January 10, 2017
Cassidy Bayer was the youngest member of the National Team, and with a third place in the 200 fly and fourth in the 100 fly at Olympic Trials, she very nearly put herself on the U.S. Olympic team last year. She is building on that as she comes back from a minor injury that briefly slowed her in this week’s 20 Question Tuesday.
1. How’s the knee -- is swimming going all right?Cassidy: Yes, I just had practice this morning and l was like, “I don’t feel it at all. It feels better.”
2. I saw a Swimming World interview about this -- a football injury in a school PowderPuff game?
Cassidy: So it was obviously touch football -- flag football. But the seniors were a little (laughs) rough, and they knew they were going to win. Because I’m pretty sporty (laughs) myself I wanted to play my best, and when I got kind of jerked to my left, and my knee stayed in place. That’s how I hurt my (meniscus).
3. So it was pretty sudden?
Cassidy: Actually, I had some problems with it before that for about a month -- I had tweaked it. So it was probably something that made it worse when that happened in the football game.
4. In that interview I saw, you were a great interview on camera -- how do you come across like that as a teenager?
Cassidy: Definitely thank you for that. I don’t know where that came from -- or if I really (laughs) am that good of an interview. My Dad and Mom are into that kind of thing -- they are very articulate. I’ve had a lot of support throughout the healing process with the injury. And Mitch (Dalton), the USA Swimming National Junior Team director, has helped throughout the process. So it’s a bad time for this to happen, but I have to keep a good attitude and always be finding a way to turn a negative into a positive and use this somehow as an advantage whether it’s the rest I probably needed or working more on my dryland training.
5. A third and fourth at Olympic Trials as a 16-year-old is amazing -- is that how you are able to view it or is there some frustration of finishing so close to making it as well?
Cassidy: It was off and on with me. I think it was a delayed reaction for me. It wasn’t where I really felt like I had “lost” when I didn’t make the team. When it happened, of course I didn’t (laughs) enjoy that I missed making the team. I knew that Cammile had been disqualified and if I had gone under those circumstances, I would not have felt good about that and certainly I would not have been a favorite like she was for the team as such an accomplished Olympian. So I understood that I did my best and it just wasn’t my time, and that to get that close really is amazing. And it’s probably good I can see that because even though I didn’t get onto the team and reach that goal, I did learn a lot and it will help me.
6. You went to Junior Pan Pacs for the U.S. and won the 200 fly by almost four seconds, what was that meet like?
Cassidy: Going to Hawaii was amazing and the team was amazing. I took a break when I came back from that -- after Trials and the whole lead-up to the Olympic year, I needed to take a longer break. So of course I never want to be hurt, but this longer break was probably in the long run not a bad thing for me. Now getting back into shape (laughs) has been hard. But my experience from Trials has been motivating.
7. So is the 100 fly something you’ll focus on more now because you really established yourself in that event even though you have always been known more for the 200 fly, right?
Cassidy: I guess you could say that. The 100 really was a good confidence booster. I really did need that. It was harder for me -- the 100 fly took more out of me because I am built more and trained more for the longer event. So to finish fourth after being seeded 11th was pretty amazing for me. You do something like that and you feel good about yourself. Now with Eva Merrell coming up, racing her, is awesome. My focus will remain on the 200 fly because that seems to be a better fit, but having that placing in the 100 at Trials is a good place for me.
8. Does it kind of help your 200 fly to have that speed you showed you have developed in the 100 fly?
Cassidy: Yes, it really does. To be able to train both 200 and 100, you can compare and contrast. To be good at one and the other has helped me figure out tempo, breath control, kicking and everything better -- it’s kind of been a missing puzzle piece for me.
9. How is the recruiting process going as you hit the midway point of your junior year?
Cassidy: At first when it all started, that first day -- Sept. 1, when you can start talking to them, that was a little overwhelming. Coach Bruce Gemmell and Jon Urbanchek were a tremendous amount of help, which is awesome, and I also have to thank my coach Jeff King who has been awesome. They helped guide me in the direction I wanted to go in starting to make sense of this and figure some things out. I wasn’t into it at first with the fast start, but as I learned more and made sense of it, I found a couple of schools I want to visit -- I had planned to do a couple of those before I was injured. So I’ll hold off on that and take it a bit slower for now and keep learning about all the great options.
10. How much did having Katie Ledecky as a teammate and seeing her be recruited help
Cassidy: Katie has helped me so much and I don’t think she even knows how much. Who Katie is as a person is the most important thing. I have a funny story. When we were younger, way before ‘12 event, and on the same team, this one girl came up to her at this meet, and asked for Katie’s picture. Katie said, “ Why do you want a picture of me,” and the girl said, “Because you are going to go to the Olympics,” and Katie just smiled and the girl got the picture. That was just how Katie was, this superstar who was never overwhelmed by anything or let anything get out of control. So having her with me the whole time was pretty surreal. She helps so much, encouraging me when I needed it. She’s texted me to make sure I’m getting better. It’s just so heartwarming how much she cares. I’ve really missed her this year, and it’s so great she’s off at Stanford doing even more amazing things, even though it’s hard (laughs) to think with all she’s done already there’s even more incredible things out there for her, but there are.
11. What was it like to train with her?
Cassidy: I can’t (laughs) even explain it. It’s weird being on that side of knowing who she is and knowing her personally. We had these Sunday practices long course. When Katie came I’d be in shock at her great attitude every single time. These were 3-hour, brutal practices, and to see how she controls herself and swims like she does is amazing. As a flyer, I’ll complain (laughs) occasionally because I can’t swim like that for as long as she can, but Katie will just get after it.
12. And you got to see her compete at meets, too, that must’ve helped?
Cassidy: It really did. I remember at an Arena Pro Swim, and everyone there was watching her do these amazing things, and I was like, “Yeah, I knew she’d do that.” The big thing is that she is always herself, and that’s a great way to be and handle it all.
13. Does swimming help you outside the pool?
Cassidy: It really does. Swimming helps you to have your priorities set right. For me, swimming has shaped who I am, and my attitude toward everything. Any swimmer can tell you that we go through some rough times -- even like right now, when I am not swimming great. I have a lot of work to do with Worlds this summer and I’ll have to really kick some butt to get there, but that sort of challenge of what you have to ask of yourself is something that shapes you for what you’ll face in life, and that’s amazing.
14. How supportive have your friends and family been during the recovery period last fall as the knee healed?
Cassidy: I have some great friends I have no complaints (laughs) about my social life. A lot of those friends are swimmers, so I can credit the sport for that, too. Also my parents having both been swimmers, they understand how I feel and what I am experiencing -- they both swam in college and were butterflyers.
15. Mel Stewart told me when I first got into writing about swimming that the 200 fly is a measuring stick -- that those who swim it are a special breed, is that how you feel?
Cassidy: Well, as a flyer, I’m probably (laughs) a little biased with it as Mel is since he’s a gold medalist in the event! I think what it is, is the toll it takes on your body and what you have to ask of yourself. If you don’t swim the fly right, there is no point in swimming it. There’s a scale of technique you have to have or it hurts you to swim the 200. So I had to learn how to really manage the 200 with just full on pull after pull after pull -- and have that motion down.
16. As you get back into it, has being a little older and wiser helped?
Cassidy: I’ve definitely learned how to treat my body -- I mean, I did know how before, but now I put more time and effort into what’s going on. I understand it better and the importance of it.
17. Does weight training help with the comeback?
Cassidy: I never did a lot of weights. We do a lot of bodyweight oriented work, with planks, push-ups, and all that (laughs) fun stuff. But since I’ve been doing more dryland lately, I’ve been learning more about weights and everything. To be a good swimmer you really have to have a good balance of dryland and swimming, and kids who are doing our dryland set are getting way faster.
18. So your program involved with the knee and getting back into it?
Cassidy: We’ve really worked on legs and out of water how to keep my arms in shape, and we do a lot of core work that includes legs, which is really difficult. The core is very important especially with all the turn and underwaters -- and I am really focusing on all that now.
19. Are you able to celebrate how great you did at Trials now?
Cassidy: I know how special it is, and I am so thankful for it. I do know every second from my walk-in to my walk-out, and every second of the 200 fly final. I haven’t watched the final yet and I probably won’t (laughs) for a few years, but I do remember every second. So I know in practice what that felt like and what I was able to do, and that really does help, especially now.
20. Being the youngest on the National Team last year and among the younger this year, isn’t that something in which you take great pride -- and wasn’t last year’s National Team, with Michael, Katie, and all those great people, something you will remember forever?
Cassidy: It was a really hungry and amazing team. I was fortunate to be a part of it. When I first made the Junior team, I was so excited that it was beyond words to describe. So being part of a group with people I know like Conor (Dwyer), Katie, Hali (Flickinger), Cammile and all these people I know is such an honor. I also got to talk to Michael Phelps at trials before the 200 fly and he was very encouraging. So to then see all these people I know do so great in Rio really gave me a lot of pride because I appreciated how hard they had worked, and how they deserved everything they earned at the Olympics.