Interview with National Team Member Annie Lazor

Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher/USA Today Sports Images

By Grant Anger, College Swimming World Intern.

Annie Lazor has been a familiar face to many on the U.S. National Team. She has had a solid career as a breaststroke specialist and recently took third at the nationals. Even though USA Swimming has not announced the Pan-American Games line up, Lazor will most likely have a spot on the team. Swimming World sat down with Lazor to talk about making her second national team.

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Swimming World: When did you start swimming?

Lazor: I started swimming when I was five years old. Our local summer club was directly across the street from our neighborhood; going there every day with my family made it easy for me to love the water.

SW: What made you start taking swimming seriously?

Lazor: I went to my first Senior/Junior Nationals and made my first Junior team when I was 15. After I made that, my coaches told me I was crazy if I continued to play water polo or soccer instead of focusing on swimming. Looking back, I was so naive in the swimming world – I didn’t know what any of these teams meant. I didn’t know there were any international meets outside of the Olympics. Focusing on swimming helped educate me more on the sport and realize I could make some of these teams someday.

SW: Where did you go to college? Tell us about your experiences.

Lazor: I graduated from and competed collegiately for Auburn University. Auburn is my home. What makes is so special isn’t necessarily the place (although it is gorgeous) but the people that are there. My team is my family, and there’s just something about Auburn that makes it special; you can’t explain it.

Athletically, my first couple years of college were rough. After coming from a place where you’re a big fish in a small pond, reality hits you fast when you represent a program like Auburn, competing in the SEC. We have dual meets against Indiana, Texas, and Florida on an annual basis. I struggled to make the transition from being able to swim anything in a dual meet in high school and win with average times to needing to be on my “A game” every single time I step on the blocks. I don’t think I handled it as best as I could have.

After I decided to take a renewed focus on my training, racing and lifestyle, things got much better. I became a multiple All-American after not making NCAAs my first two years of college. Auburn gave me all the tools I needed to be successful. I had incredible coaches like Olympic gold medalist John Hargis primarily heading my training my last couple years. I truly wouldn’t be where I am today without the experiences Auburn gave me.

Jul 15, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Annie Lazor of the United States competes in the women's 200m breaststroke preliminary heat during the 2015 Pan Am Games at Pan Am Aquatics UTS Centre and Field House. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher/USA Today Sports Images

SW: What did you learn from your first Pan-Am Games?

Lazor: My first Pan Am Games came as a bit of a surprise. I didn’t know I was going until a few months after they announced the teams; I was a late addition. I used my platform as an opportunity – I was a late addition to the team, so no one had any expectations for my performance. I was stoked to see what I could do after what was finally a successful college season. In my opinion, it was the perfect first international meet. While going to WUGs or Worlds that summer would’ve also been great, Pan Ams was smaller (41 countries), still very competitive – many of the countries sending the same teams to World Championships later that month – and gave me a glimpse of a major international stage.

SW: What were Olympic Trials like?

Lazor: Olympic Trials is probably the meet with the biggest production. There are lights, fire, laser shows, waterfalls and people rising up from under the ground during award ceremonies. Everyone says Trials is infinitely more stressful than the actual Olympics because you haven’t made the team yet, and the production is so much greater than the meet at the Olympics.

My first Trials exceeded any expectations I had. Knowing my chances to make the team were slim-to-none, I went in with a care-free mindset and ended up earning a semi-finals swim. My second one was a little different; I had an actual chance to make the team, and there were a couple of uncontrollable factors that I chose to let impact my training and racing in the months leading up to the meet. I don’t regret anything I did in that time because I’ve learned so much more about myself in my failures than in my successes.

SW: You recently decided to turn pro again – what led to this decision?

Lazor: After the 2016 Trials, I left the sport disappointed because I knew I had so much more in me than what my performance showed. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue training as a professional after I’d exhausted my eligibility (excluding the months between NCAAs and Trials my senior year), and I wanted to create an identity outside of swimming. While I loved my year away from the pool, I decided that if I was considering returning to swimming at all, I should do it without fear of regrets later in life. My year away eased my mind about going into the real world after sport. I started swimming again in September 2017 with my coach from Auburn, Hargis, with his new program at Pitt.

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

SW: What led to training with Indiana? How has that been?

Lazor: I took a training trip there during the height of the NCAA championship season to visit my Auburn roommate and IU postgrad Ashley Neidigh. I loved the environment, the energy of the coaches and postgrads, and could see clearly why Indiana had enjoyed so much success.

Afterward, Hargis worked with me collaboratively to reach out to Ray Looze and Mike Westphal to explore that as a new training environment for me. I’m so grateful to them for accepting me into their program. It’s been great for me mentally and physically to train with other postgrads and to take on the training at IU. The breaststroke group we have is unparalleled – training with and being around people like Lilly (King) and Cody (Miller) every day opened my eyes to new standards I needed to set in my training to be more successful. Mike and Ray have mastered the balance of college program and postgrads; they make us feel as if we’re part of the team while still competing as individuals.

SW: You also just made your second Pan-Am Games. What’s different from this year than four years ago?

Lazor: Other than being older and having a couple of bigger meets under my belt, I don’t think much will be different the second time around. The greatest parts of these meets are the people you’re with, exploring a new place, and most of all, representing the greatest country in the world. Even though my last Pan Ams was successful and we are there to compete, I’ve learned to cherish those experiences more than any time in the pool.

SW: What are your goals for the future?

Lazor: It’s easy to say a goal is to make the Olympic Team, medal at the Olympics, set goal times, etc., but what I’ve learned this year is that I have to enjoy the process. I had no expectations for myself, given I’d never been in a position where I’d taken so much time off. I’m a very impatient person, and this past year has given me no choice but to be patient, celebrate little successes in the day-to-day work, and relish being a part of a sport where I’ve made lifelong friends I get to see every day and at meets all the time.

SW: What advice would you give to anyone who is thinking about going pro?

Lazor: When considering whether or not I should start swimming again, I had an epiphany where I realized if I was considering it at all, I should continue swimming. Your support system will continue to support any decision you make, and I’ve realized if you want something bad enough, nothing will get in your way.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

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Author: Grant Anger

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Grant Anger is currently a sophomore on Kalamazoo College swim team. He fell in love with everything about the sport after joining the high school team his junior year. Grant considers himself a "DQ expert" with how often he has been DQ'd himself. After college, Grant wishes to follow a career in the business side of swimming.

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