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High Schooler Emma Weyant Moves Up To The Next Level With 400 IM Victory At Swimming Nationals

By Karen Rosen | Aug. 02, 2019, 11:46 p.m. (ET)

Emma Weyant (C) celebrates earning silver in the women's 400-meter individual medley at the 2018 USA Swimming Winter National Championships on Nov. 30, 2018 in Greensboro, N.C.


STANFORD, Calif. – Emma Weyant can call herself a senior now in swimming as well as in high school.

With a resounding victory in the 400-meter individual medley at the Phillips 66 National Championships, the 17-year-old won her first senior title.

“I talk to my coach a lot about not being stuck on the junior level,” said Weyant, “climbing the ranks in swimming and then really focusing on the details this year.”

Last summer, the Sarasota, Florida, swimmer won the 400 IM and was third in the 800 freestyle at the 2018 Junior Pan Pacific Championships in Fiji.

Weyant, who will turn 18 in December, is too old for the upcoming junior worlds in Budapest, Hungary, but that’s OK. She proved she belongs with the big girls now.

She knocked more than 5 seconds off her best time, clocking 4 minutes, 35.47 seconds at nationals, which is part of the Team USA Champions Series, presented by Xfinity.

That time made Weyant the fifth-fastest performer this season and the fastest American.

“It’s definitely given me a lot of confidence going into the next year,” she said. “There’s still a lot to do, but it’s given me a lot to work on.”

Weyant defeated the two swimmers who represented Team USA at the recent world championships in Gwangju, South Korea: Brooke Forde, who was second Friday at 4:36.06, about a minute off her fastest time, and Ally McHugh, who came in at 4:38.65, nearly two seconds off her best result.

“It’s really awesome to race against them and then to actually be in a race that close with them is really cool,” Weyant said.

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Forde, who was third in the 200 freestyle earlier this week, led at the 100-meter mark with Weyant in third. Weyant pulled ahead at the halfway point, but Forde was back in front at 300 meters.

Weyant retook the lead with 50 meters to go by .08 seconds and was a half-second faster than Forde on the final stretch.

“I was just really trying to get my hand on the wall at that point and use my legs,” Weyant said.

Her best stroke is freestyle, but she has seen growth in her backstroke.

“That used to be my weak point and now it’s starting to be one of the better parts,” Weyant said.

She also took the opportunity to work on breaststroke at nationals.

“A lot of breaststrokers in the field also helps me stay motivated in that part of the race,” said Weyant, who also defeated 200-meter breaststroke champion Madisyn Cox, who was fifth.

The 400 IM is one of the most grueling events in the sport, but Weyant said the race is “a lot of fun.”

“When I was younger, I was more of a distance swimmer, so I think my endurance is pretty good and I really like training IM because there’s always something different to work on,” she said.

However, Weyant allowed that it’s a different kind of fun.

“You have to be in the right mindset and look at it in more of a positive way because it definitely can give you a lot of anxiety going into a 400 IM,” she said.

But she didn’t have any anxiety in Friday’s race.

“I tried to keep my mind clear and then just race today, so I was good,” she said.

While Weyant tries to stay in the driver’s seat in the pool, she’s definitely in the driver’s seat on dry land.

“I have three sisters, so I’m always driving them around,” she said.

Weyant’s sisters are 15, 13 and 9. The 13-year-old, Gracie, is also a swimmer.

“We talk about swimming a lot and feed off of each other,” Weyant said. “And then the other two are dancers, so it’s kind of a split house.”

At the Southern Zone South Sectional Championships in March, Emma won three events – the 200 free, 400 free and 200 IM while Gracie won her race, the 200 breaststroke, posting the fastest 13-and-under time in the nation.

Weyant also feeds off the success of the other young swimmers winning titles at nationals, including Regan Smith and Luca Urlando.

“It’s awesome," she said, "and it’s inspiring and exciting for the next year going into (Olympic) trials."