Beata Nelson Dominated Last Year’s NCAAs; No Repeat With Cancellation of Meet

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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Editor’s Note: Beata Nelson and the rest of the college swimmers had their NCAA championship meets cancelled Thursday because of the coronavirus outbreak. The following is a preview written before the meet was cancelled:

Beata Nelson stepped up on the blocks just hoping to get a good start to her NCAA championships.

The Wisconsin star was poised to challenge for titles in the backstroke events after starting her meet off with the 200 IM.

Nelson threw down a 1:50.79 — the second-fastest performance in history — to win the NCAA title in the 200 IM, stunning the field, the crowd, and herself.

“Everyone who watched knew how shocked my first swim at NCAAs was for the swimming community and for me. I was not expecting that,” Beata Nelson told Swimming World. “That was probably the most fun for me in the 200 IM because I was swimming with no expectations and being right next to Ella Eastin and seeing if I could go out there with her and fight for it. I was totally in my own zone in the 200 IM until I turned into the freestyle and I could see Ella behind me, and I was like, ‘you better get your darn butt to that wall, right now.’ That is what it is all about.”

“I was just so whole-heartedly at the meet to enjoy myself. I was super nervous the couple weeks leading into it because of expectations. I kind of got to the point where I realized worrying about expectations isn’t going to help me.”

So, no expectations after that and what happened?

Two more NCAA titles as Nelson went a 49.18 to retake the NCAA and American record in the 100 backstroke, then crushed the 200 backstroke, finishing in 1:47.24. That race was equally impressive since she trailed Stanford’s Taylor Ruck from the beginning, through the 150 mark.

“I was fearless and ready to give it everything I had. I was behind for 150 of the 200 back and got my hand on the wall. That is one of the most fun races I have been a part of because it was a race from the instant it started to the instant it finished. That was a great race with Taylor. Competing is a huge reason I love the sport,” she said. “I shocked myself and let it carry me through the meet. It was a special meet for sure.”

So how do you top that?

“Obviously this past year was a huge shock. Maybe people are expecting that from me, so it might not pack the same punch that it did last year. I don’t have to defend those titles because they will never be taken away,” Nelson said. “I just need to go in with the same mentality. The thing that I can do to mess myself up is to try to compare this year to last year. I am working with my team, my coaches and myself to not do that. I am going in hoping for fun and for best times. That is all I can ask for, make the last one the fast one.”

Everything is building toward that — but it wasn’t always. Nelson came into college a shell-shocked freshman and had to build from the ground up.

“I never thought I would be where I am now. I always had dreams of winning an NCAA title and I went through two sets of coaches to be where I am,” Beata Nelson said. “Sophomore year was the turning year I would say. A few of my goals came to fruition which gave me hope that I can still achieve things that I wanted to. When people have a rough year in swimming, it is easy for people to just give up and think that is how things were going to be. I was unable to accept that.”

And that was the turning point at her home school of Wisconsin, somewhere she never thought she would end up as a high schooler in Madison.

“I always thought I would go somewhere else. I ended up where I belonged, but it is definitely full circle realizing how many people saw the journey unfold right in front of them. My club coach was there. I had family and friends that were there. It was crazy to see how much love and support followed me,” she said. “Senior day was great. We knew it was going to be a tough meet. I enjoyed the day so much. It’s crazy being back at the Nat instead of our new facility. That was super nostalgic for me swimming there growing up.”

No matter what happens at the NCAA championships, Nelson knows the work in 2020 is just beginning. As one of the best short-course swimmers in the country, the move to long course for the Olympic trials is not easy — so much so that Nelson might have a better chance in the 200 IM than the backstroke events.

“Underwaters is where I make my move in swimming. I take advantage of that as much as I can. It is a totally different sport to me, honestly,” Beata Nelson said. “I shifted my focus to long course a little bit less on the backstroke and more on the fly and IM. I have a pretty strong aerobic stroke that works long course. Obviously I am not forgetting about the backstroke. I am still looking to be competitive in that stroke. Holding a rate is what I have struggled with in long course in the past. I am trying to get that muscle memory fired up. We have done a lot more tempo and speed work to be prepared for Olympic trials.”

Then no matter what happens on the international stage this summer, Nelson is hoping to go back to short course, and back to a team.

“I am planning on ISL. That would be a no-brainer for me being short course,” Beata Nelson said. “I enjoy being part of a team and it kind of emulates college swimming. I am excited.”

She should be. The stages are set for a full and memorable 2020.

3 comments

  1. avatar
    Hmm...

    She ain’t going anywhere