SANTA CLARITA, California, May 29. TWO weeks ago, Canyons’ Abbey Weitzeil became the sprint queen of high school swimming by breaking both the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyle national high school records at the CIF Southern Section Championships while representing Saugas High.
During the meet, she posted a 21.98 to break the 50-yard freestyle record, while twice lowering the 100-yard free mark with a 47.91 (individual event) and a 47.82 (relay leadoff). In fact, her two 100-yard frees are the only sub-48 second swims by a female in high school competition.
Swimming World wanted to take a deeper look at who will be one of the most highly recruited prep stars this coming year with reigning Swimming World World Swimmer of the Year Katie Ledecky already taking herself off the board by committing to Stanford. Luckily, Canyons head coach Coley Stickels has always been a pretty open book as he spoke with Swimming World about Weitzeil.
1) What is Abbey like as an individual? What are some of her personality traits that make her a great swimmer, and also what type of teammate is she?
Abbey is internally motivated and likes to race. Not to mention that she is also extremely talented. Her school work and swimming are priorities, and she makes no excuses about anything getting in the way of her goals.
I believe this is what sets her a part from others. In coaching her for almost 2 years, I can’t recall a time where she has been late to practice or has left early. She seems to enjoy dryland, and is great at assisting with the newer swimmers in our group (in terms of showing them drills, exercises etc).
Abbey also takes the time to motivate our novice kids by getting in the water with them and teaching technique.
2) What are some of the specific drills, sets, etc. that Abbey has done that led her to breaking both of the national high school sprint freestyle records?
We were actually focusing more on the 200 yard free this year for the high school season, so many of the sets, drills, etc were aimed at that event in particular. An emphasis on dolphin kick and building more leg strength were of primary importance.
We also spent quite a bit of time working on distance per stroke, starts (reaction time and trajectory), and head position when breathing on free.
Here is one set we experimented with:
100 (yards)@1:30 goal 200 divided by 2 w small (or soft fins) and paddles. Typically w a stroke count around 9strokes per 25.
2×50@50 1) 25 uwkick 25 9 strokes w fins 2) 50 at goal 200 pace w no stroke count or eq
3×25’s@30 1) over kick w easy arms 2) 15@200pace swim but last 10 is kick only head down 3) opposite of 2 (10 kick head down 15 swim @200 pace
75 easy@1:20 w one caveat- swimmer must take one or two fast strokes no free into each wall and initiate a fast turn.
We would repeat 4x’s and add or drop equipment throughout. Example: On round 2, I might take paddles off on the 100 and add fins for 25’s.
Typically we would do a race pace set of this nature 2-3 times per week (varying in volume and intensity) with aerobic recovery work in the form of drills in between ‘anaerobic’ days/sets.
3) We’ve been covering Abbey for a few years now, with her first mention being some Sectionals articles in 2012. Now, she’s on the cusp of being one of the most recruited high school swimmers in the nation where the NCAA is so sprint-focused. What’s her development been like the past two years at Canyons?
I think Abbey has gotten stronger in and out of the water. Little changes in her stroke, such as adjusting her hand position on her breakout and being able to change rhythm and range within a race has contributed to her development.
Abbey enjoys the changing practices/environment, and I think that keeps her more engaged/stimulated when the drills, sets, exercises are in constant flux.
4) When we posted video of Abbey’s swims on Facebook and Twitter, the majority of the comments were focused on her straight-arm recovery with one commenter even calling it a “swing chuck” technique. (See Videos Below) Can you give some insights into her freestyle, and why it works for her?
Abbey can do the classic ‘high-elbow’ stroke, but her leverage and tempo are minimized when doing the conventional stroke at high speeds.
I don’t advocate the ‘straight-arm’ free recovery for everyone, but for Abbey it works as she maximizes her fairly long wingspan. The hammer type recovery also allows her to get into her catch immediately, which admittedly can be a bad thing at times as it causes her to spin/slip.
5) What do you see in the future for Abbey?
I’d like to see Abbey focus a bit more on the 200 in the future, and possibly some other events including the 100 back/100 fly. I think she will do well at the college level.
Our club is limited in terms of its resources (i.e. weight room, physio, equipment) and once she has exposure to those things, I think she will get faster.
6) What are some of the other keys to Abbey developing to this point?
Developing Abbey’s kick and learning to rely on it is a key factor for her. When Abbey’s tempo speeds up, she has a tendency to let go of her kick.
In looking at some of the best swimmers in the world (in all events), the top men/women have a ‘reserve’ in the legs towards the end of races. Sun Yang’s world record mile comes to mind, his last 50 in particular. We will also continue to work on her start and breakout and her ability to be explosive and athletic in a functional sense; constantly changing the stimulus once she is able to adapt/overcome stress.
50 free – 21.98
100 free – 47.91
100 free – 47.82