BLOOMINGTON — Emily Weiss said she’s getting more comfortable as her freshman season has progressed with the Indiana women’s swimming and diving team.
There will always be high expectations for Weiss, a four-time state champion from Muncie who set a national high school record by posting a time of 58.40 seconds in the 100-yard breaststroke. A former Yorktown standout, Weiss has come to a school known for producing elite breaststrokers. One of her training partners is former IU standout swimmer Lilly King, a two-time gold medalist who is ranked No. 1 in the world in the 100 breaststroke heading into the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Weiss is coming off her best stretch of the season heading into the Big Ten championships in Iowa City later this month. She won both the 100 breaststroke (1:00.92) and 200 breaststroke (2:12.18) at IU’s final home meet against Purdue and won the 200 breaststroke (2:11.66) last week at Louisville.
“The first part of the season, it was hard to get into the routine of things,” Weiss said following the Purdue meet. “I didn’t think I had enough time getting ready for Big Tens, but now we’re a month out of Big Tens, and I’m, like, ready to go. We’re all in really good shape right now. It’s just time to get that tapered down, and I think we’re all really ready, including myself.”
Weiss said the biggest adjustment to college swimming has been the practices.
“High school practices are a lot different than college,” Weiss said. “I came in here and I had more practices than I usually have. There’s just different skillsets that they teach here, that I didn’t learn in high school.”
While King casts a long shadow, Weiss said she’s also used the standout Olympian as a resource. The two have talked often since Weiss began her college career. King told her there were some bumps in the road in her freshman season as well.
“It’s rough for everyone’s freshman year,” Weiss said. “It’s obviously that transition year is really tough, just at the beginning, you’ve just got to remember that you’re just a freshman. It will get easier, and she’s absolutely right. It did get easier. The workouts have been great, everything like that but really just learning to get your head down and get through the tough stuff so you can get ready for everything.”
Training-wise, Weiss said she couldn’t have a better group pushing her. Both King and U.S. swimming’s second-ranked breaststroker, Annie Lazor, are training at IU, preparing for the 2020 Olympic Trials. Lazor, 25, swam collegiately at Ohio State and Auburn.
“We love racing each other a lot in practice,” Weiss said. “It’s super beneficial. We have some of the world’s best breaststrokers here. I mean, how does it get any better than that.”
IU swim coach Ray Looze said Weiss has managed to deal with the weight of expectations that have come with following King, who finished her collegiate career in 2019 with eight national titles.
“She’s a national high school record holder, but she’s also a freshman and she’s 18, so she’s behaved just like freshmen do where you come on to a stage just like this,” Looze said. “You know, her training partners are literally the first- and second-ranked women in the world, and she’s just used to winning all the time. That’s just something she had to adapt to. I think she’s coming out the other end at this point. (Purdue) was just a really good meet for her. It’s just kind of what freshmen do as they adjust to a different degree of difficulty.”
Looze said Weiss’ best attribute is her fearlessness. He said Weiss hasn’t backed down to King and Lazor in training, noting she’s beaten them both a few times.
“I like where she’s going,” Looze said. “She’s strung together some really good training the last three or four weeks. I think she’s going to be at her best at NCAAs and we’re not going to fully prepare her for Big Tens, so we want her best to be at NCAAs because she’s already qualified to go. I’m just hoping we can kind of get through Big Tens and do a good job, but the goal is to be even better at NCAAs. Minnesota has got a really good breaststroker, and so does Michigan. They will be hard.”
Beyond NCAAs, Weiss has Olympic aspirations this summer as well. But first, she’s focusing on getting through the rest of the college season.
“I’m keeping a sharp eye on (Olympic) trials this year, but NCAA, I want to do really well and win a couple of events,” Weiss said. “But overall, I think, just taking one meet at a time so far leading up in trials, and I think it will set a really good road ahead. “