After setting a St. Olaf school record and the 2017 NCAA top standard time in the 1,650 yard freestyle during the MIAC Championships, star swimmer Caitlin Croasdell ’20 was selected to compete at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships. Croasdell will be the lone Ole representative among 579 participants competing in the season finale, held in Indianapolis from March 21-24.
Q: How are you preparing for the NCAA Championships? Are you making any adjustments based on previous races that you think will make a significant difference on this bigger stage?
A: Mentally I’m treating it just like any other meet. It’s the same thing I’ve done a ton of times before and, while venue and standards are different, nothing changes about what I am there to do. Physically preparing has been a little bit different than how we would normally prepare for our end of season meet because I’ve already tapered once. Coming off of Conference we had to quickly build back up yardage and keep the intensity high before a short taper right before the meet. The only adjustments I make between any races are technical things that can help me improve. Significant differences in only a four week span are uncommon, but implementing the little things now makes it possible to have large improvements in the future.
Q: Describe your mentality both before and during a race of this magnitude. How do you shake off any potential nerves to remain as focused as possible?
A: Before a race of this magnitude, as like before any race, I avoid thinking about anybody else’s performance. I am the only one in the pool that matters in my head at that time. Throughout the race it’s the same, thinking about what I’m doing, although I am aware of what’s going on around me to see that if there is someone close then we have a race. I don’t really get super nervous before I swim because there isn’t anything really bad that could happen to be nervous about. The worst that could happen is you add time or DQ, and while it sucks in the moment, it’s not a huge deal.
Q: What is the biggest difference between team relays and individual performances? How have your teammates and coaches provided support leading up to this event?
A: The biggest difference between relays and individual events is that on a relay everyone wants to do their best for everyone else, whereas in an individual event you want to do the best for yourself and it’s easier for some people to have more trouble with that. I approach relays with a little more desire to do well for my team but ultimately it’s the same as an individual race – you go out and do your best. My team and coaches have been very supportive leading up to this meet. We no longer have required practice, yet multiple teammates have been there to swim with me so I wouldn’t have to train alone and I really appreciate that because I know how difficult it is to be in the water when the season has just ended and it’s time for a break. Our coaches have been great as well, always making sure that practice times worked out and asking for my feedback on sets and what I felt I needed to prepare for this week.
Q: What do you believe is your most crucial strength as an individual swimmer, and why do you suppose that is? Alternatively, what’s an element of your swimming that you’re still trying to improve?
A: As an individual, the area I am strongest in is my ability to zone out into my own race and not be distracted by what’s going on around me because it allows me to focus on what I’ve trained for and to do my best. Something that I do need to improve is how well I am able to stay in that zone, as I don’t swim very well when I’m paying attention to how others are swimming. I work on this whenever I race and just try to focus.
Q: What role models do you look up to? Are there any professionals you’re particularly inspired by?
A: I mostly look up to fellow teammates and people I know who have finished their swimming career rather than any professionals. I think that having someone closer to you to look up to is better because you can see everything that they go through and how it’s handled. I especially look up to teammates who I know are having trouble with injuries or personal things or just a lot of stress but they still show up to practice everyday and work through it all. The greatest lessons I’ve learned are to always put the work in, because you get results out, and to just enjoy it because it does end and you can never have that experience again.