By Mike Watkins//Contributor | Friday, January 31, 2020
It’s shaping up to be a big year for Emma Weyant in and out of the pool.
Not only is she graduating high school this spring, but she has her first Olympic Trials in the summer. Then, in the fall, she starts the most pivotal phase of her life, enrolling at and swimming for the University of Virginia.
It’s true – that’s a lot in a short amount of time to heap upon someone. But for Weyant, it’s all part of the journey to fulfilling dreams she’s had since she was little – highlighted by making the Olympic team.
“This year is anything but uneventful,” she said. “There are going to be a lot of big life changes, and I have countdowns on my phone for everyone of them, especially graduation, Trials and starting college. So, I would say I’m excited.
“I’m trying my best to enjoy every minute of this year and make the best memories I possibly can.”
Smack dab in the middle of these life-changing events are Trials. Weyant missed making the time cuts in 2016 until two weeks after the meet was over.
So, while she watched that meet on TV from her home in Sarasota, Fla., she will be making her first trip to the CHI Health Center in Omaha to compete against the United States’ – and in most cases – the world’s best swimmers in order to make her first Olympic team.
“My team had a fairly large group of kids qualify for the (2016) meet, and I remember we did a big sendoff for them. That inspired me to want to be part of that group in the future,” she said.
And even though she didn’t get to compete at Trials four years ago, Weyant has more than made up for it excelling internationally and nationally since that meet.
The young lady who started swimming for her current club, the Sarasota Sharks, when she was 8 is now not only a Junior Pan Pacific Championships gold medalist but also a 2019 National Champion in the 400 individual medley.
Needless to say, the past year or so has been more than a fun ride – and it’s been a ride that she hopes might just end up taking her to Tokyo.
“Junior Pan Pacs was not only my first time representing my country internationally, but it was the first time I had ever traveled oversees,” Weyant said. “Having the first stamp on my passport be Fiji is pretty cool. This meet gave me my first exposure to the culture of team USA and how being in an environment with such high-achieving people and athletes motivates you to swim your absolute fastest.”
Not only did she get that first stamp in her passport but Weyant also left Fiji with her first international gold medal – winning the 400 IM.
She said the experience was very positive for her – boosting her confidence as well as giving her a special moment when she and teammate Mariah Denigan went 1-2 in the event – sweeping the podium (only two athletes from the same team can swim in the finals at Junior Pan Pacs).
“I think that that race really changed things for me in terms of how I viewed myself competing at high levels and gave me a lot of confidence for what I could do in the future,” she said.
“A big thing that my coach Brent (Arckey) talked about last summer was taking risks and how you’re never going to reach your full potential unless you trust in yourself and take these risks. I applied this to my races last summer, and I will continue to abide by this idea heading into Trials.”
Weyant added that, while competing at Junior Pan Pacs was great from an international perspective, winning her first national title last summer was more pivotal in some ways.
While it also fueled her confidence, it stoked her passion for the sport and proved to her that she can compete right alongside the best senior-level swimmers around.
She knows that will only pay more dividends once she takes the blocks for her first and best event – the 400 IM – at Trials in a few months.
“Winning my first national title proved to myself in that race that believing in yourself and taking risks pays off,” she said. “Swimming in a heat full of such talented swimmers helped me stay motivated and made the racing aspect even more fun.
“Although this will be my first Trials, I don’t think my expectations will vary greatly from other big meets that I’ve been successful at. While I do have some big goals I want to accomplish, I have to remember to trust in my training and swim to the best of my ability on race day.”
Weyant said that growing up and becoming a more mature person and athlete has been one of the biggest contributors to her becoming a top contender this year to make the Olympics – a dream she’s had since childhood but one that’s only had real legs the past couple of years.
She said the most drastic changes she’s made in her training have come in strength and dryland work, which has become a focal point in her routine.
Another thing that has helped her progress over the last couple of years is trying to be as consistent as possible during training.
“My coaches always equate putting together a consistent and successful week of practices to being prepared and ready to go at longer swim meets,” she said. “This has been important for me especially, as I tend to swim difficult line ups at most meets.
“When it really comes down to it, I owe all my improvements over the past couple of years to my coaches and the time and thought they put into every practice and set to help not only me but my teammates’ progress. I have been blessed with the best support system of family, friends and coaches. All of these people inspire me to be my best every day.”
Weyant said she knows she will have some stiff competition at Trials and taking one of the top 2 spots to make the Olympic team will be anything but easy.
She knows a lot of the top swimmers who will be swimming her events at Trials were on World and other teams last summer when she won her national title.
But in order to fulfill her Olympic dream, she said it will come down to execution and belief in herself that will position her among the top few competitors this summer in Omaha.
“I know that I will be in the best position if I focus on my own race and hit all the details,” she said. “Being able to touch the wall first or second will be all about just getting in there and racing alongside some incredible athletes.
“I just competed in the TYR Pro (Swim) Series meet in Knoxville, where I swam a wide variety of events and really focused on racing and executing all my swims. Attending meets like this serves as a building block toward Trials, as anywhere I can gain experience and learn from the outcomes ultimately helps me towards achieving my goals.”