By Mike Watkins//Contributor | Friday, February 21, 2020
Emily Escobedo has her post-swimming future planned out – and the first step takes place this summer.
In August, she’s marrying her fiancé, Andrew, in an intimate ceremony that she knows will showcase their love.
But before that happens, she hopes to celebrate another milestone in her life when she competes at her second Olympic Trials in Omaha this June for a shot at making her first Olympic Team.
Ultimately, it’s most likely her last opportunity to compete at the Olympics and fulfill a dream she’s had since she was little.
And with her recent success against top competition, it’s looking more and more like a real possibility.
“I haven’t committed to a timeline yet, but I really doubt I will still be training and competing at this level four years from now, so I need to make it happen this summer if I’m going to be an Olympian like I’ve always wanted,” said Escobedo, who is in her third semester of six working toward her Master’s degree.
“I already have my post-swimming path in progress – studying to teach special education classes, getting married, starting a family, etc. – and I don’t think I will have the time to devote to swimming like I do now. I have to make the most of this opportunity.”
Based on recent results, Escobedo has proven that she is someone to be reckoned with this summer in her signature 200 breaststroke event.
This past December at the Toyota U.S. Open, she beat a loaded field that included Olympic gold medalist Lilly King, Pan American Games gold medalist Annie Lazor, Olympian Melanie Margalis and World Champion team member Micah Sumrall. Her time of 2:22 set a U.S. Open meet record.
“That race gave me so much confidence and really made me believe that I can be right there with the best swimmers at Trials this summer – that I belonged,” said Escobedo, who competed at 2012 Trials but didn’t make it out of preliminaries. Four years later at 2016 Trials, she made the semifinals and just missed making the finals.
“The year before at Winter Nationals, I finished second in the 200 breast, but this meet really made me believe that I can compete with anyone.”
A late bloomer, being competitive with the best swimmers in the United States and world wasn’t on Escobedo’s radar until the past quadrennial.
She started swimming summer league when she was 6 because she loved to watch the other kids swim. By the winter, she was swimming year-round for her local YMCA.
“The first couple of weeks were awful; I always thought of swimming as fun, but swimming for a league, there was work involved that I didn’t want to do,” she said. “I came out of the pool crying and wanted to quit, but my mom said I should give it 2-3 weeks, and if I still hated it, I could stop. By the end of that third week, I loved it.”
In high school, she wasn’t very heavily recruited, so she went to the University of Maryland Baltimore County, where she earned multiple Division I All-America honors – finishing third at NCAA Championships in the 200 breast her junior and senior years.
Still, she doubted her future in swimming and contemplated stopping altogether until she qualified for the National Team during the summer of 2017 with a personal-best time in the 200 breaststroke prelims at the U.S. Open.
“Before that, I didn’t really have a plan, and after making the National Team and learning that I got a stipend, I was able to keep swimming and chasing my dream,” she said. “I honestly never thought I could make a career out of swimming, but the past couple of years have proven to me that I can.”
After finishing her degree at UMBC, Escobedo moved back to her parents’ home in New Rochelle, NY, and resumed training with her club team, the Condors Swim Club of Clarkstown, Inc., and Coach Jonathan Hulbert.
Since UMBC doesn’t have a post-grad training group, Escobedo knew that her best shot to maintain and even improve upon her swimming results was to go home and swim with her club swimmers who push her every day in the pool.
“There aren’t any breaststrokers, male or female, who can push me in practice, so I train with backstrokers and freestylers who have really created some competitive opportunities for me,” said Escobedo, who won gold (400 medley relay) and silver (200 breast) at 2019 World University Games.
“My work is largely about times – can I hit this time, can I beat this time, etc. – but it certainly helps when you have other swimmers who compete with you in practice.”
Escobedo said she credits much of her current success to the work she put in during her years at UMBC.
Each year, she consistently dropped time in every one of her events because her college coaches made practice fun as well as challenging.
Since then, she’s spent a good bit of her training getting stronger with dryland exercises as well as working on refining and correcting her stroke technique.
“It’s obviously paying off,” she said. “Being able to compete for the United States at World University Games last summer was really the ultimate payoff for all of the hard work I’ve put in. Getting that box of USA Swimming gear and competing for the first time internationally with the USA flag on my cap was a tremendous honor. It made me want to experience that feeling of pride again – and to be able to do it in Tokyo at the Olympics would be the pinnacle for me.
“It’s really a very exciting time for me in my personal and professional life as well as with my swimming. I can’t wait to see what this summer brings, but I’m also ready to start the next phase of my life, so whatever happens at Trials, it’s going to be win-win for me. Every day now is a dream come true.”