Three swimmers are within a second of the CIF Southern Section Division I meet record in the girls 50-yard freestyle.
The leader of the trio is a freshman at Saugus High School, a relative newcomer to swimming who is headed to the U.S. Olympic Trials in June to compete in two events.
Abbey Weitzeil is the top seed in the 50 freestyle for the Southern Section Division I meet at Riverside City College. Her top time is 23.38 seconds.
The record is 22.75 seconds set by Courtney Cashion of Irvine High in 2004. Lynrea Baudino from Los Alamitos and Kaitlyn Albertoli from JSerra are within a second of Cashion’s record. La Canada’s Sarah Olson is the fourth seed in the 50 freestyle at 23.80 seconds.
Weitzeil, who is also qualified in the 100 freestyle for the Division I championships, is making quite a splash in the high school swim scene. She didn’t start swimming at the club level until she was in the seventh grade. She has competed at the national level for less than a year.
Her coach said Weitzeil is far from flawless in the 50 freestyle. But she is extremely talented and that helps her overcome a lot of mistakes.
“I think she’s better in the 100,” said Jeff Conwell, her coach at Canyons Aquatics Club. “The 100 is more of a raw racing event. The 50 is such a short, sprint event, you don’t have time to make small mistakes. She’s pretty young and inexperienced, which is exciting because she is going to get a lot better. She hasn’t been swimming at this level for very long.”
Weitzeil admits her emotions sometimes get the better of her before a race.
“Having the opportunity to walk out and be in the fastest lane, it’s really exciting and the energy is really great,” Weitzeil said. “I try to calm myself down, because I get really nervous. I work myself up. I just try to stay calm. I just race. It’s a race. I try to have fun with it.”
Olson is one of four girls who have recorded times under 24 seconds in the 50 freestyle. She has gone under 23 seconds in relays and said she expects someone to break Cashion’s record this weekend.
“I know there’s a lot of fast and talented girls in it,” Olson said. “I’m sure someone will have a great swim. Hopefully it will be me. I think it’s definitely reasonable that I’ll go faster than 23.80. How fast, I’m not quite sure yet. I trust my training and I put a lot of faith in my coach. So far it’s gotten me this far. If it’s not me, someone else will break it for sure.”
Weitzeil is also the top seed in the 100 freestyle and is within striking range of the meet record in that event. She is the only swimmer to break the 51-second barrier in the 100 freestyle entering the CIF prelims. She will need to break the 50-second mark to set the meet record.
“I think she has a shot,” Conwell said. “She’s relayed split 49.1, 49.2. We’re not overfocusing on that. We don’t look too much at the prelim seeds for CIF. You can’t get too excited about the top seed. A lot of those positions change.”
Cashion holds the record in the 100 freestyle at 49.26 seconds. Weitzeil’s best time entering the CIF prelims is 50.91 seconds.
Weitzeil is going to the U.S. Olympic Trials in swimming in Omaha, Neb., in June. She has qualified in two events, the 50 freestyle and the 100 freestyle. Conwell said he would like to see Weitzeil finish in the top 16 in the 50 freestyle. As for the CIF championships, Conwell isn’t putting too much emphasis on that meet.
“She’s in a little different situation though,” Conwell said. “This being an Olympic Trials year and we’re focusing on the Olympic Trials. She’s not going to do a full taper. The goal is to be under 23, but that’s also knowing that we’re focused on a month from now, not right now.”
Katy Campbell, Olson’s teammate at La Canada, is also going to the U.S. Olympic Trials. She has qualified in two events, the 400 and 800 freestyle. She will be swimming in the 200 and 500 freestyle races at the CIF championships. She is the sixth-seeded swimmer in the 200 freestyle for the CIF prelims.
“When we came back from (spring) break, we decided what we wanted to do,” Campbell said. “We really wanted to do well at Olympic Trials. We’ve just been training this whole time, working on my stroke, working on my turns. Everything is improving, getting better. I’m just trying to make sure I’m at my best when trials come around.”
The CIF Southern Section Division I swim prelims began today at Riverside City College. The finals are set for Saturday starting at 5 p.m.