Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick
By Dan D’Addona.
Abbey Weitzeil is dialed in.
The Cal junior has been aiming for an NCAA championship since her final swim at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
The switch to a college team after a year of individually training for the Olympics was an adjustment, one that took a full two years to complete.
“I would say that my mindset has changed a lot. When I was training for the Olympics I had a certain mindset that was hard to change. I would do what I was told and that is all I knew. One certain goal was on my mind the whole time — and it worked,” Weitzeil told Swimming World. “The adjustment was really hard for me in college. My mentality now is, instead of being so hardcore, it is trusting myself and enjoying the journey.”
That trust in herself and her training has been evident already in this NCAA season.
“I think that each year gets easier to trust in my training and my teammates and Teri (McKeever). We have been doing some new stuff and it has been working well,” she said. “My confidence has been up and I am really excited about the season.”
Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick
Weitzeil has every reason to be excited. She is coming off one of the most dominating performances of the college season at the Georgia Fall Invitational.
She won the 50-yard freestyle in 21.46 seconds, the fastest time in the country this year. Then on the final day of the three-day meet, she lowered her own school record in the 100 free, touching in 46.49 to again post a top time in the nation. She was named the Pac-12 Swimmer of the Month.
“It makes me really excited for March. Georgia is always a really fun meet. It is a great atmosphere to race in with no pressure. I have never swam as fast there as I did this year. My best was 46.2 (American record) and this is the closest I have gotten,” she said. “We have been working on having efficient strokes, while going fast. That is something I have been working on a lot personally. I am always thinking about it.”
Weitzeil is hoping that efficiency leads to the perfect swim at NCAAs.
“My goal is to win an NCAA title individually. That has always been my goal, but I haven’t been able to reach it yet. I would love to better my American record in the 50 free,” she said. “Obviously best times is a goal for anyone and I haven’t done that in a while. I would love to do that.”
It was her goal her first two NCAA meets, but she came up just short. Last year, she finished fourth in the 50 free (21.67) and third in the 100 free (46.74) and helped four Cal relays finish in the top four.
As a freshman, she placed fifth in the 50 free (21.58), eighth in the 100 free (47.79) and 18th in the 200 free (1:45.03).
“I definitely know that I can be way better. I have not had an NCAAs yet where I felt it was a really good meet for me,” she said. “Coming into college, it is so different. The meet is so exhausting mentally and physically. Plus you are so emotionally attached to what your teammates are doing.
It is such an emotional roller coaster. But it is so much fun. NCAAs is a crazy meet. It is nothing like what I have been to before. I came in only really swimming for myself, then Team USA.”
Photo Courtesy: Chuckarelei Studios
When Abbey Weitzeil committed to Cal, she deferred for a year so she could focus on training for the Olympic trials. It worked as she qualified in the 50 and 100 freestyle events to earn a spot on Team USA. In Rio, she finished seventh in the 100m free (53.30) and 12th in the 50m free (24.67). She also won a gold medal on the 4×100 medley relay and a silver on the 4×100 free relay.
“I feel like I am more open minded to different things now. I was so set on one style of training working for me in 2016 and that is what hurt me a lot my freshman year,” she said. “It was a big learning experience. Coming in freshman year, it was definitely a hard year for me. I learned a lot. Sophomore year was better, but still not what I wanted. I have grown each year, mostly mentally.”
Mentality can be pivotal for a sprinter.
“Definitely the biggest thing for me,” she said.
Weitzeil also has the leadership mentality working this year. While Cal’s captains are the seniors, an upperclassmen who has been to the Olympics obviously brings something to the table.
“I feel like my personality is helping people and giving to people, so that is a natural role I fall into. I love being a leader around the pool and around the team. I appreciate that people do trust me to lead,” she said.
That leadership has been even more pivotal this year after teammate and fellow Olympian Kathleen Baker turned pro after her junior year.
“I feel like we could be seen as an underdog, but losing Kathleen doesn’t change any aspect of that,” Weitzeil said. “We are still a great team and we can put up a great fight.”
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