Walking around playing Pokemon Go with friends. Visiting family in other states. Staying up and watching movies until 3 a.m. These are things that most high-school students will be doing this summer but not Yorktown swimmer Emily Weiss.
“I’m not a normal teenager anymore,” said Weiss. “I have to choose one side or the other, and I’ve chosen swimming.”
Weiss, who is only 15, qualified for the Women’s 100m breaststroke trial in Omaha by winning the Indiana University Bucceto Open and making the cut with a time of 1:11:49. Weiss was looking to become just the second 15-year-old American woman to medal in the 100m breaststroke since Amanda Beard in 1996, but unfortunately, Weiss didn’t qualify for a spot on Team USA’s Olympic swimming roster.
“The experience is a lot to take in,” said Weiss. “I mean, I’ve been at high-level meets and everything, but this is probably one of the fastest meets in the world.”
It’s not uncommon for an Olympic trial rookie to be in awe at the size of the event and the aura that comes along with it. The Omaha World-Herald reported that more than 200,000 attended the trials this year.
“I was a little nervous, and I was trying to stay calm most of the time, but I definitely wasn’t as relaxed and comfortable as they were,” said Weiss. “Just having confidence going into your races would definitely help.”
Being around swimmers who have already competed in past Olympics can make you lose some confidence in yourself. Weiss says that this is one of the things she wants to spend the most time working on.
“I’ve got to have faith in myself and my coach along with the training,” said Weiss. “I’ve got to know the competitors are good, but I’m also good.”
Weiss says one of the things that helped calm her nerves was knowing that her family and coaches were there watching her and helping her along the way.
“They’ve been supporting me a lot,” said Weiss. “Without them, I wouldn’t be on the path I’m on today, and I wouldn’t be at Olympic trials.”
One of Weiss’s biggest role models in her life is her father, Jon Weiss, and he couldn’t be more proud of what his daughter has already accomplished at the age of 15.
“She went in with an edge and had fun in the days leading up to it,” said Weiss. “I’m sure the nerves set in. It’s just something a 15-year-old has to deal with.”
For an up-and-coming swimmer such as Emily Weiss, one of the best things about attending meets such as the Olympic trials is the attention that comes with it. She wants to be noticed by other teams, other swimmers and potential college interests such as the University of Florida and University of Indiana.
She has been noticed by several coaches such as former Ball State Swim Coach Laura Seibold-Caudill and Cardinal Swim Club Assistant Coach Emily Kowalski.
But the one person who has noticed her improvements the most is her head coach at Cardinal Swim Club, Tony Santino.
“I am very proud of what she did,” said Santino. “It’s common to go in there and get that ‘wow’ factor, but she’s really picked up a lot of things, and she really understands the stroke.”
By swimming in different meets around the state and the country, Weiss has become friends with many of her fellow competitors. One of those is Lilly King, who’s not only going to the Olympics — she is also a heavy favorite to medal.
Coach Santino recalls one moment at Omaha in where Weiss learned from the older King.
“I think she was ready to go at a certain point, and I said ‘no’ because we need to watch Lilly King get pinned or get her ceremony for making the team,” said Santino. “You’ve had some good conversations with her, and I think you owe her that respect to go and watch her.”
Weiss says that being from a small town such as Yorktown and having a tight-knit community behind her has made her feel more comfortable in competing in these large meets.
“Living in a small town has a lot of benefits,” said Weiss. “They’ve all supported me and patted me on the back and everything. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
Now a veteran of the Olympic trials, Weiss is on track for a shot at a spot in the Tokyo games in 2020.
Hendrix Magley is a Ball State University student and writer for Ball State at the Games, a group of 50 journalism students traveling from Muncie, Ind., to Rio for the Olympic Games. Follow them at bsuatthegames.com, @bsuatthegames on Twitter and Instagram, and facebook.com/bsuatthegames on Facebook.