During a recent video review of her performance, Riverview High senior Emma Weyant noted a fix that needed to be made.
The girls swimmer saw that she was pushing her hands down during the recovery portion of her breast stroke. That slows you down, she said. In a sport where milliseconds can be difference makers, she could not let that stand. The hitch in technique has since been fixed.
Even Olympic hopefuls learn something from routine practices.
Weyant, the reigning state champion in the 200-yard individual medley (1:58.07) and the 500-yard freestyle (4:44.32), is back for one last victory lap before heading to the University of Virginia and training for her international career. That is what a lot of swimmers say, a dream common among the elite, but one not many can accomplish. Weyant is different.
Each of the last three summers, Weyant has increased her profile on the national scene. This summer may have been the biggest splash yet. On Aug. 2, Weyant won the 400-yard individual medley at the 2019 Phillips 66 National Championships in Stanford, Calif. Her time, 4:35.47, ranks third-best in history for the age 17-18 division. It is the fastest event time for an American woman, any American woman, in 2019. She knocked 5.17 seconds off her previous best time to do it.
Not bad for someone who entered nationals seeded ninth.
“I was shocked,” Weyant said. “The two people I beat (Brooke Forde and Ally McHugh) placed in the event at the 2019 World Championships (in South Korea in July). I came in wanting to just beat my best time, so to break 4:40 at least. I was able to go faster than that.”
Being the best in the country is hard for Weyant to think about, she said, turning her eyes downward. She’s achieving a goal she has had for years, one of the few able to do so. It is a fulfilling feeling, Weyant said, thanking her coaches and teammates for their support.
Leah Smith, who swam for the 2016 U.S. Olympic team and won gold in the 4x200 freestyle relay, texted Weyant congratulations after the race. Smith, a Virginia grad, also wished Weyant well in Charlottesville. It was the standout of the countless texts Weyant received after the win, she said, and it made things all the more real.
Weyant is trying not to think about the 2020 Olympic Trials, held next summer in Omaha, Neb., so she does not hope too hard. It’s tough, she said, when you can see culmination of everything you have been working toward slowly approaching. This December’s U.S. Open in Atlanta, essentially the winter version of the summer national championships, will be a nice midpoint distraction.
The school season will be, too. Weyant is still swimming for Riverview, and will look to repeat as state champion, though her goals for the season are admittedly different. This will be about the team, she said. She wants the Rams to finish as high in the standings as they can. She is riding the program’s positive vibes, she said, and having as much fun as she can.
Weyant finds it funny how far she has come.
“Back in 2017, I swam the summer U.S. Open (in New York),” Weyant said. “That was my first national meet. I swam the 400 IM and I actually got disqualified there. Getting DQ’d was hard, especially at your first big meet. I knew I had to make changes. That motivated me going into the next summer when I qualified for the Junior Pan Pac Championships.”
After that, Weyant took off. She made changes then, and she’s still making them now. Weyant hopes that eventually, the gold medals she receives after putting in the work will be of the Olympic variety.
Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.