PHOENIX, Arizona, December 19. ON today's edition of The Morning Swim Show Courtney Otto discusses her recent fast mid-season performances and how her participation in the Olympic Trials gave her motivation for her sophomore year at Harvard.
Otto, who placed ninth in the 200 fly at the Olympic Trials, gained motivation from her swim in Omaha, and brought that back to Harvard, where she posted a 200 fly time that ranks her in the top 10 collegiately. Otto also discusses Harvard's upcoming holiday training trip and her outlook for the championship season. Be sure to visit SwimmingWorld.TV for more video interviews.
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Jeff Commings: This is The Morning Swim Show for Wednesday, December 19th 2012. I'm your host, Jeff Commings. In the FINIS monitor we'll be joined by Courtney Otto. She's a sophomore at Harvard and she's going into the second half of the college swimming season ranked in the top 10 in the 200 butterfly. Courtney joins us now from Massachusetts. Courtney, it's good to see you. How are you today?
Courtney Otto: I'm doing well, thanks for having me.
Jeff Commings: Good to have you. So, Georgia Invite, best times in the 200 fly, 400IM. Must be really good to know that you were able to do that mid-season.
Courtney Otto: Yes, definitely coming off of last year, I went the 400IM time at the end of the season so to be able to repeat that mid-season now I think speaks really good on how our training's been going and everything.
Jeff Commings: And in that Georgia Invite I want to talk about that 200 fly – you were in between two girls from Cal, Rachel Bootsma and Caitlin Leverenz. It's not your first time racing against girls of that caliber. What was it like in that race for you?
Courtney Otto: I was super excited. In the prelims I was right next to Rachel Bootsma and I ended up touching her out. The 200 fly isn't the best event for either of the girls so I figured it was like my best shot to be able to against an Olympian. I know they're both really, really good racers and that's one of the things I love about swimming is being able to race so I kind of wanted to use that to my advantage.
Jeff Commings: So you weren't nervous at all that these two had just gone to the Olympics, Caitlin had just won a medal in the 200IM, that didn't make you unsettled at all?
Courtney Otto: I mean – no, I was really, really excited. Caitlin and I are friends. I definitely talked to her over the past couple of years as she started to come on to like the internationals team so it was definitely like an honor to be able to race them and I was excited for the opportunity.
Jeff Commings: 1:56:24 in that 200 fly, it's seventh in the nation. It's also one hundredth of a second off the school record so I would imagine you've got 1:56:23 there pasted on your wall or your locker somewhere.
Courtney Otto: No, that's definitely a goal and it's a Katy Mills record, the 200 fly, and when I saw her in my recruiting trip she was definitely who kind of took me underneath her wings so it's kind of cool to be in the same category as Kate.
Jeff Commings: When you went to Harvard you probably saw the records on the scoreboard. Did you ever thing that by your sophomore year that you'd have a couple of them?
Courtney Otto: I definitely wanted to, it's something like my aspirations. In high school my coach was always like “Just wait until college.” I never did weights or anything in high school and he was like “Just wait until college and hopefully then you can start to really become faster” so I always had those goals time-wise to be able to go that fast so the fact that it's actually happening, it's really neat.
Jeff Commings: You've got a lot of great women in your class there. The sophomore class seems to be doing very well. What is it about that group that's enabling you to swim so fast?
Courtney Otto: I think it's really interesting. Our entire sophomore class, we're all super, super close. I live with half of them and I live next door to the other half and so the fact that we're so close and we all have a common goal that we all are very serious about swimming, we all want to go really fast and there's not really any of that competitive jealousy between us and so the fact that we can use each other as support networks I think it's really special and it's definitely been a key factor in me getting past these past couple of years.
Jeff Commings: Well now that you've had that great boost of swimming fast a couple of weeks ago what does it look like now for holiday training?
Courtney Otto: I'm going back home for about a week and a half to train with my club team back in Buffalo so we kind of get after it in the Christmas season so it's going to be pretty rough and then we come back here and we go to Puerto Rico for our training trip and none of it is going to be easy but hopefully I'll be able to get faster and stronger throughout this time.
Jeff Commings: Well at least you'll be in Puerto Rico while you're going through that hard training. It's definitely not Buffalo or Boston.
Courtney Otto: No, definitely not. I can get a little tanner.
Jeff Commings: Yes, you'll come back to Harvard in the next semester and make everybody jealous.
Courtney Otto: So pasty, yes.
Jeff Commings: So when you guys go to Puerto Rico, is it a bump up in yardage? What do you guys do differently there that you wouldn't be doing in Harvard?
Courtney Otto: We do bump up the yardage a lot. It's just more intense training. Here when we're at school the academics is definitely a big stressor that we have so being able to get away from the whole like Harvard bubble and just go somewhere where it's like sunny and has beautiful weather we really take advantage of it, we bump up our yardage, we do a couple of team sets to kind of build the team bonding, our team gets closer as a unit because we're living with each other for nine days, and I think it's a really good experience for everybody and it helps to build a stronger team as well as make us stronger because we are increasing our weights, our yardage, and it's good.
Jeff Commings: I want to go back to Olympic trials where you swam the 200 fly, you got ninth, you missed the final by three-tenths of a second. What were your emotions when you realized that you just missed out on that final?
Courtney Otto: It was a little bit bittersweet but I was definitely super happy with how I swam. Coming out of the NCAAs last year I was really disappointed with my swims. I swam well at Ivys but I was not used to having such an emotional meet as winning a championship so it was hard for me to come back training-wise and to get myself mentally prepared for NCAAs, and my coach kind of sat me down after NC's and was like “You know what? You lost your training this year a little bit. You kind of were a little full of yourself” in terms of like thinking that I was better than I actually was, so she really kind of — it was like a slap in the face but it was something that I definitely needed and I knew I didn't want that to happen for trials. So I changed everything that I was doing, I tried to eat better, I was more focused on practice and I was just I think more dedicated and it ended up paying off for trials and I wanted to go that fast but it was just kind of like a goal that was like far in the distance for me so to be able to actually be ninth is definitely I was so happy about it and hopefully it will fare well better for 2016.
Jeff Commings: You're probably one of the few people at the Olympic trials that got ninth that says that it was a good experience. Probably everybody's like if I just had one stroke harder or not breathe into that third wall, what if, but it sounds like it was a really positive motivator for you.
Courtney Otto: It was, I mean at first I had all those emotions because the girl who got eighth was the girl right next to me who I was beating the entire time until that last like 25 so that was definitely – those were definitely my first emotions but Seth, my coach, is really good at getting you to kind of look at the big picture and realize how to gain something positive from each experience.
Jeff Commings: Well you talked about what you had to deal with in NCAAs, didn't have the great meet that you guys had at the Ivy League Championships. Was it just really just a mental thing for you? Is that something that you're going to be working on in this next championship season and making sure that you can continue to do well in NCAAs?
Courtney Otto: Definitely, I think — just I really had no idea what to expect from like Ivy's so I think going into this year I'll be able to kind of control my emotions a little bit while still being super exuberant about what we're hopefully about to accomplish but hopefully I'll be able to keep my emotions a little bit more in check and realize that there is another four weeks left of the season for me and be able to carry that mentally over to NCAAs. I think I have the racing mentality down and I love the sport so it has nothing to do with that, it's just really I have to be able to keep my emotions more level.
Jeff Commings: What does it feel like now to be ranked in the top 10? I mean last NCAAs I mean I think you were like in the — 30th in the 200 fly and here you are probably going into NCAAs, you're going to be top 10. How does that make you feel?
Courtney Otto: I'm so excited for it. I think having Trials and having that under my belt is going to be really, really helpful for me going into NCAAs. So I'm really just excited to see how much faster I can get because I definitely think I can work on from Georgia that I can translate over NCAAs and we really haven't had our hard, hard training like we're about to experience over the next month so hopefully I can get faster from that and then just keep the positive attitude going towards NCs.
Jeff Commings: Tell me what it's like to be a student athlete there at Harvard.
Courtney Otto: It's a little rough sometimes. Right now we're in our finals week. But, I don't know, I think it's just kind of like how you deal with it, being able to have your time management, really like some of the academic stressors so I don't know much different ours is in comparison to everyone else's but it's just all about time management and being able to realize your priorities, get them in check.
Jeff Commings: Is there any added pressure because you're at Harvard?
Courtney Otto: To do well in school?
Jeff Commings: As opposed to being at let's say a state school that would still be a good school.
Courtney Otto: I think it's definitely a little bit more athletes aren't as glorified in Harvard as they are at like a state school. But I don't know, I think it's everyone here like has a priority that they want to do well in school and they want to do well in swimming. And I think that's very important for the team as a whole so we kind of all help each other in that aspect. Yes, we do need to do well in our academics because we've chosen this institution but it's something that we all want, nobody is really put into this environment or nobody stays in this environment if it's what they want.
Jeff Commings: Yes, that's a good point, good point. Well I'm sure you're going to be really looking forward to your time in Puerto Rico. I'm sure you're also looking forward to your time at home so a lot of things to look forward to the rest of this month. Thanks so much for joining us, Courtney.
Courtney Otto: Thank you so much. Have a good day.
Jeff Commings: You too and we'll see you at NCAAs.
Courtney Otto: Bye.
Jeff Commings: That's Courtney Otto from Harvard joining us in the FINIS monitor and that would do it for today's edition of The Morning Swim Show. Be sure to log into swimmingworld.com and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest swimming news. I'm Jeff Commings, thanks for watching.
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