DURHAM, N.C. – With the 2014 NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championship set to begin Thursday, March 20 in Minneapolis, Minn., GoDuke.com caught up with NCAA qualifier and All-ACC performer Lauren Weaver to learn more about the senior swimmer’s expectations for her second consecutive national championship meet.
GoDuke.com: Can you reflect back on your individual performance at ACCs and what it was like to earn all-conference honors in two events?
Lauren Weaver: I was slightly disappointed with my 50 [freestyle]. I was excited to be on the podium but I was hoping to win it or improve my placing from last year. But being on the podium is still such an honor. Going into the 100 fly finals that night, I was fifth [in preliminaries] … I said, ‘I can get there as much as the other girls, so I’m going to try my hardest.’ It definitely felt like I tried my hardest – it hurt so bad finishing. But when I looked up and saw I was third I was like, ‘Okay, that was worth it.’ It’s crazy considering I didn’t even swim in the ‘C’ final last year.
GoDuke.com: How exciting was it to get two relays qualified to NCAAs with the performances at the ACC meet?
LW: Starting off the meet with the ‘A’ cut relay was really fun, especially since Christine [Wixted] had more or less qualified for NCAAs back in the fall at the Nike Cup. It basically meant that we were taking at least five people [to NCAAs]. And then to get the ‘B’ cut the next night in the 200 free relay was really exciting because by that time I had already swam my 50 cut that should make NCAAs, so that meant we were taking six people. It’s exciting to have so much more company this year.
GoDuke.com: How key were the contributions of the team’s younger swimmers at the ACC Championship?
LW: All season I was really excited to see how the freshmen especially were going to swim because we have a pretty solid group this year. They didn’t disappoint. They swam really well and stepped up. Half of our relays were comprised of freshmen for the women and several of our men’s relays were comprised of all freshmen so it was exciting to watch the women’s and the men’s meet with the freshmen really making their mark on the team.
GoDuke.com: What are you expecting from the field at the NCAA Championship, especially in your individual events?
LW: I haven’t really looked at the psych sheet all that much. I have a general idea of who is ahead of me just from looking at the rankings throughout the year. I haven’t been as focused on it this year. I haven’t been as focused on outcome as I have on what [head coach] Dan [Colella] always preaches – the process. I’m just really focusing on my training and letting that do the work for me. I feel a lot more confident going into it. Last year, it was just a sigh of relief making it and being there … This year, I want to be an All-American. I’m hoping to go as fast if not faster.
GoDuke.com: How does your experience from competing at last year’s NCAA meet help you going into this year?
LW: It’s a different atmosphere. It gets really loud. The energy is crazy and there are so many people. The only meet that I’ve been to that’s more crowded than that is Olympic Trials. NCAAs is usually the fastest meet in the world that year. You’re watching people like Breeja Larson and Missy Franklin swim right in front of you who are Olympians and world record holders. It’s insane, but you can’t let it get to you. It’s exciting because you belong too.
GoDuke.com: What is it like to head to Minneapolis with five other teammates this year?
LW: It’ll definitely help. Christine and I keep telling these girls that they’re not there to watch – they’re there to swim. They deserve to be there just as much as any other girl there. It’s good for cheering and it’s great knowing that we’ll have a team atmosphere.
GoDuke.com: What does this year’s NCAA team say about the Duke program and the direction it’s headed?
LW: I’m jealous of the kids who are going to be around for the next two or three years. I wish that I could continue on with my collegiate career at Duke and be a part of the team. I really think that they could move up in the ACC. The ACC is getting so fast too. But it’s the right time to be making moves forward, which we are. This year’s freshmen did great and our sophomores have done really well. Next year we’ve got a really good group coming in. They should continue to have several people qualify every year.