Katie Drabot Riding Late 2019 Surge into Stanford Finale, Olympic Trials

Katie Drabot has the fastest 200 fly in the NCAA this season. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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Katie Drabot was sure 2019 was going to be her year.

It was, but it just took a while.

Heading into the NCAA championships in March, Drabot was one of the top contenders in several events and looking to challenge for national titles.

After All-American performances as a sophomore, it made sense that she would be able to take that next step for Stanford as a junior.

The problem was it made too much sense.

Drabot felt the mostly self-pressure of contending for a title and it was too much. She didn’t have nearly the meet she was hoping for and was left looking for answers. She finished fifth in the 200 fly (1:51.94), 11th in the 500 free (4:37.87) and 18th in the 200 free (1:44.98).

“It is a very high-pressure meet and I think it just got to me. Based off the year before, I put a lot of pressure on myself to compete and hold myself to a certain standard. I kind of cracked under the pressure,” Katie Drabot told Swimming World. “The year as a whole was a little rocky with training and I think I lacked a bit of motivation throughout the fall and winter. But I was able to refocus. You can never really predict how you are going to do. You can’t be on your ‘A’ game all the time. Afterward I used the frustration to motivate me to put some good swims together that summer.”


Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

While most swimmers want a hard-earned break after the NCAA championships, Drabot couldn’t wait to get back in the water and start her long-course training. The quickest way to get over what happened was to get a new process started.

“I was back in the pool 24 hours after NCAAs ended. You take a deep breath, let everything go and get back on your way of training. Right after, I flew to the OTC for some long-course training and it was really refreshing. It was a good way to get long course started,” she said. “I definitely had to lean on my coaches and my teammates and look forward. I used that to inspire me. I can usually channel frustration into something positive. It was definitely not the easiest.”

Especially since she was preparing for the world championships.

If NCAAs brought enough pressure to affect her, Drabot was determined not to let that happen on an even bigger stage.


Katie Drabot (right) with Hali Flickinger at Worlds. Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

“Worlds was the biggest competition I have been to. It is exciting but there are definitely nerves. I told my coaches I wanted to medal at worlds. It was a big goal and scary goal but I needed to believe I could compete at that level,” Katie Drabot said. “I was pretty confident going into the meet and I had to execute my race plan properly. Having Hali (Flickinger) there with someone I can laugh with in the ready room really made things easier. Having a good Stanford showing helped, too. I tried to think of it as another meet with the same distance from one side of the pool to the other.”

Easier said than done, of course, but Drabot put a strong race together and earned the bronze medal.

“The prelims swim shook me up a little bit. I wasn’t super happy with it and being next to Hali in the semis and finals gave me a lot of comfort. It was fun. I was proud to represent the U.S.,” she said. “I feel like there was a little more in the tank. But it definitely gives me some hope and confidence knowing I not only can compete at a meet of that caliber but succeed at that level. I belong at that level.

“It was a good experience but left me hungry for more. I think that will help going into 2020. I just can focus on what needs to be done in practice every day. This summer gave me a lot of confidence.”

Drabot wasn’t waiting until 2020 to continue that wave of confidence, however.

While trying to make the Olympic team is in the back of her mind, Drabot doesn’t want to miss out on experiencing her senior season at Stanford.

Drabot put that confidence on display at the Texas A&M Art Adamson Invitational, the team’s midseason invite this year.

In one of the performances of the meet, Drabot won the 200-yard butterfly in 1:53.14, an NCAA automatic qualifying time and the top time in the NCAA this season.

“I was pretty happy. Coming out of last season, I was definitely disappointed and left wanting more. I went into long course and re-shifted my goals. Coming into the season, I definitely wanted another shot at proving myself that I didn’t get last year,” she said. “I was pretty happy with the invite. It was pretty solid. It was fun to go and race and see what I have been doing well and what I still need to work on.”

Drabot is one of the leaders on a Stanford team aiming to defend their three national titles.

“It was different looking around the room and seeing that you are the oldest,” Katie Drabot said. “If I am being honest, I didn’t set any goals as far as times. I just want to have fun, which is something I didn’t have last time. I needed to take a step back and enjoy the sport and enjoy racing.

“I am just trying to enjoy every moment of my senior season. It went by so fast.”

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