Katie Meili, CC’13, has had one of the most impressive seasons in Women’s Swimming & Diving program history, culminating with a record-shattering swim in the 100 yard breaststroke at the 2012 Ivy League Championship. The Texas native captured four other Ivy League titles that weekend and was unanimously named Most Outstanding Swimmer of the Meet. She will represent the Lions at the NCAA National Championships, which will take place in Auburn, Alabama, March 16-19. Bwog had a chance to sit down with Meili to discuss her success this season, her future in the sport of swimming, and the truth about swimmers peeing in the pool.
Bwog: Congrats on being named Most Outstanding Swimmer of the Meet at the 2012 Ivy League Championship and being the only woman in Ivy League history to break one minute in the 100 yard breaststroke! What went through your mind when you looked up at the clock after the 100 breaststroke and saw your time? Did you know immediately that you had just made Ivy League history?
Katie Meili: Thank you! So many emotions went through my head when I looked up at saw my time on the scoreboard after my race. I immediately started jumping up and down in the water and I’m pretty sure I was yelling in excitement. It’s the best feeling in the world when you see that all your hard work has paid off in the best way possible. I knew I had broken the Ivy League record when I saw my time, but the excitement of being the first under a minute didn’t hit me until later that night.
Bwog: It sounds like such an amazing moment. How did you prepare for Ivies? Can you describe “taper” and any other (potentially bizarre) measures you and other swimmers take to get ready for the biggest meets of the season?
Katie: Swimming is an interesting sport in that the dual meet season doesn’t count for team rankings. The outcome of the entire season is decided at the Ivy League Championships. Therefore, we maintain a high level of training all year long and then start to rest or “taper,” where we slowly decrease yardage and intensity, 2-3 weeks before championships. I try to eat healthier leading up to a big meet, but, in doing so, crave junk food and probably end up eating worse than I would have if I had not actively tried to be healthy. The swimsuits we wear at big meets are pretty bizarre. They are so small and tight that they take about 30 min to put on. There is a lot of science behind it that I don’t really understand, but the fast suits make a huge difference.
Bwog: Do you pee in the pool ever? If so, how often? If not, stop lying.
Katie: I never pee in the pool. And by never I mean always. Everyone does – it’s very normal for all swimmers. Why would we give up the short amount of rest we have to get out and walk all the way to the bathroom when we are sitting in a giant pool of chlorinated water? It just makes life easier.
Bwog: Before you have to squeeze into those suits, you guys practice a lot, and long swim practices must leave a lot of time to you and your thoughts. What are a few things that cross your mind the most when you’re logging hours in the pool?
Katie: I really try to think about making every stroke, turn, and finish perfect so that it’s all muscle memory in a race. It sounds boring, but it makes practices more productive and makes all those laps go by quickly. When I zone out and I’m not thinking about swimming, I sing songs to myself. I try to find songs that I can sing completely from beginning to end, but I never have much success. Another thing that crosses my mind a lot is what I’m going to have for dinner, or food in general. I always get so hungry at practice.
Bwog: In meets, swimmers often follow the same routine every time they step on the block just as runners do before a race. What’s your routine? And in your many years of swimming, what’s the weirdest ritual you’ve ever seen?
Katie: My pre-race routine is very specific. It starts in warm-up and lasts until I dive off the block. I don’t have to do everything in a certain order, but if I leave something out I get really nervous. The routine I do behind the block consists of a combination of stretches, jumps, and deep breathes. I try to get my heart rate up but keep my mind calm. I also obsessively check that my goggles are tight enough. Losing your goggles in a race pretty much guarantees that it will be the worst race of your life. The weirdest routine I have ever seen is Paige Endsley’s, CC’ 12. She would jump and shake her whole body simultaneously. It looked like she was having a seizure in midair. But hey, you have to do what you have to do!
Bwog: We’ll think about that the next time we go swimming. In all seriousness, though, you’ve qualified for the NCAA National Championships in Auburn, Alabama. What are your expectations for the meet and moving forward? Do you plan on continuing your swimming career after college?
Katie: I’m so excited to get to Alabama and compete. Even though swimming at this level can be intimidating, I know how hard I’ve worked to get here and I’m expecting to swim well! Regardless, it’s going to be a great learning experience and a lot of fun. I haven’t decided on swimming after college yet, but right now it seems like it will be very hard for me to give up – I love it too much!
Meili via GoColumbiaLions