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  • Jun

    Countdown to Omaha: Emma Reaney

    National Team member Emma Reaney has always been athletic, but it took some trial and error before she found swimming--a sport that actually stuck. Growing up in Kansas,“I did every sport you could possibly imagine: dance, tee-ball, soccer, gymnastics and track,” recalls Reaney. At age 8, a family friend convinced her to attend a new swimmer clinic and everything clicked right away. “I don’t know why we didn’t put two and two together sooner. I had always been a water baby, never wanting to get out of the pool or tub,” says Reaney. They put her on a kickboard and she happily kicked breaststroke up and down the pool, naturally and with ease. Reaney remembers,“The coaches were like ‘yup, she can definitely stay!’”

    From that mini success kicking breaststroke on her first try, the achievements in swimming continued to build. She swam in North Kansas for the Lawrence Aquahawks, qualifying for her very first zone team at age ten and going on to win the 200 IM at the meet. She continued to swim year round and made her first trials cut in ‘08 in the 200 IM. Reaney signed with The University of Notre Dame where she would become the most decorated athlete in the school’s history.  She won the 200 Breaststroke at NCAAs in 2014, making her the first Fighting Irish swimmer to win a national title and first ever student-athlete in the school’s history to hold an American record (2:04.34).

    After graduating in 2015, Reaney went Pro and signed with Dolfin. Although it was a dream come true, Reaney explains that the transition definitely has had its challenges. “It’s been really hard. It was something I don’t think I was ready for mentally.” Reaney says, “I absolutely loved college and had the greatest experience I could have asked for. I had the team always there as a built in friend group, schedules, people telling you what to do and wear.”  It’s a struggle that many new graduates can easily relate to as they try to find their way after an amazing college experience.

    The day after she graduated, Reaney drove out to North Carolina to spend her second summer at SwimMAC. Although she loved the team there, It was really hard to adjust and the summer didn’t go as planned. “After Nationals, I ended up moving back to South Bend to train and work at Notre Dame and it’s been really great.”

    Being back at the familiar home of Notre Dame has been good for Reaney. She trains under Head Coach Mike Litzinger, Assistant Coach April Woo and strength coach Elisa Angeles. Even though she is the only post-grad, the coaches work hard to integrate her into their schedule, but also let her have time to work on their own.

    “Right now, I’m swimming once a day. I have a pretty good base after being at the Olympic Training Center for a month and I do a ton of work on land: yoga, lifting and even Orange Theory for extra conditioning.” The main focus of her training has been strength. She lifts four times a week, alternating between upper and lower body. “Strength is a big thing for me. I do Olympic lifting, tons of pull-ups. Having that strength has helped me keep my stroke count down, save energy and helps me pull myself through the water.”

    Regaining a passion for swimming has been a process that Reaney has fully embraced. She recently spent a month at the Olympic Training Center where being around people with the same goals really motivated her.

    “The energy was really great. We were pushing each other every day, and it made me realize how much I still love the sport.” For Reaney, finding that love for the water comes from enjoying the process and staying true to her personality. She explains, “For the most part, I’m usually the one at practice that people have to tell to stop singing. I like to talk; I like to have fun. I like to dance and be with my friends. That’s what makes swimming fun. You only get a certain amount of time where your face isn’t in the water, so I like to take advantage of it for sure!”

    This summer will mark Reaney’s third Olympic Trials. “My first trials I was 15. I think I tied for 173rd. My coach told me that ‘you made the times for this meet, just like everyone else did. When you see Michael or you see Ryan, you are one of them.” Looking back on 2012, Reaney recalls excitement and nerves: “This never happens to me, but I was so nervous I couldn’t eat more than a couple bites. I was having so much fun. All my nerves were just everywhere. The fireworks, the way they put everything on. I was dropping so much time. I ended up making semis in the 200 IM which is so cool.”  Remembering that experience and just enjoying it and being in the moment is something I’m gonna have to remember this time around.”

    Since this is the first time that making the team is on her radar, Reaney’s focus will be on her confidence. Although some of her events are still to be determined, she says that she would “like to swim a lot because it’s better for me to stay in the meet.” Getting in and racing has always been the best way to shake off her nerves. Reaney says,“I don’t ever feel any pressure from my family, my coaches or my teammates.The only pressure I feel is the pressure I put on myself. I just need to realize ‘Hey, you’re good at swimming. You like swimming. Do what you know how to do and you’re going to be fine.’”

    Although Reaney is going into trials as a seasoned veteran with a laundry-list of accolades, she still considers her biggest accomplishment to be amending her relationship with the water. “In the past year, I’m proud of myself for being able to find my love for the sport again. Being able to step back and really remember why I started swimming and going for this in the first place is something that makes me happy.”

    Read more about Emma Reaney

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