Mallory Comerford Embracing Resurgence after ‘Dark Place’ Heading into World Championships

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Mallory Comerford left the Olympic Trials stunned, but a year later, at the International Team Trials, she left in tears … happy tears.

After the most difficult year of her career, including a disappointing finish at the Olympic Trials, Comerford proved her resurgence in Greensboro, making Team USA for the World Championships — something that seemed impossible a year ago.

“It was the happiest I have been after a race for a long time,” Mallory Comerford told Swimming World. “I walked out crying after they told me I was going to Budapest. It was amazing.”

Comerford finished sixth in the 100-meter freestyle, which was enough to make a relay spot for Worlds.

“Having the 100 the first day is nice. I was nervous for it. Had a good morning swim and knew I had a chance. Obviously I would have loved to touch better than sixth, but I am happy to have made it. The hardest part is waiting and counting roster spots until that becomes official,” she said.

The wait was worth it for Comerford.

“I was pretty excited to get to the meet. My mindset has been a lot healthier and I have fallen back in love with swimming. I never hated it but I was in a really bad place with it,” Mallory Comerford said. “I have enjoyed racing and the process of it all. That has been really refreshing and exciting. It has allowed me not to feel the pressure and race like I used to.

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Mallory Comerford. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

“My confidence is back with how it was before. I felt confident and so proud of the work I had done to get me out of the dark place I was in.”

That darkness lasted nearly a year. After looking like a favorite to make the Olympic team in 2020, the postponement because of the COVID-19 pandemic changed everything for Comerford.
Health problems began, and piled up — so did the mental toll everything was taking.

“I had some health issues and had struggled since September of 2020. That is when everything started. I really struggled through that entire year, then trials was the (bad) cherry on top. I had hope for trials, but I wasn’t shocked by my results,” she said.

Swimming hadn’t been fun for her anymore, and the results reflected that.

“I would cry at practice every single week. I couldn’t figure out why I was struggling so much. I really struggled to find out what was going wrong. After a couple of months you get to a place when there is not a lot of positive going on,” she said. “I was in a bad place. It is really hard to go to trials and the year before I had a really good shot at making the team, but a year later, I wasn’t confident and wasn’t swimming to the level I was capable of and all of that affected me that meet. It was tough.”

Along the way, Comerford dealt with many physical ailments, but also realized she was suffering from Overtraining Syndrome.

“When you go through that for months without a change. It became harder to see the light. It was the same thing over and over again,” Comerford said. “There is a lot that goes on in our sport that feeds into overtraining. A lot of coaches and swimmers believe more is better. The more you do, the more in shape you are. But I have learned that that is not necessarily true and that can affect you mentally. I understand where (Simone Manuel)  was coming from and fully support her. It is not easy.

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Mallory Comerford. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

“Everyone is so different. As a swimmer, that is hard to balance. It ultimately comes with what is best for you and believing in that.”

After the Olympic Trials, Comerford was at a crossroads, but determined to figure out what she needed in and out of the water.

“After trials, I took a month off completely … avoided the pool,” she said. “I traveled some and hung out with friends, things that I usually have to say no to because of swimming. I took that month fully for myself. I would have taken longer but I decided to do ISL, so I wanted to get in the water.”

Training for the ISL, she started focusing more on sprinting, and it opened up a physical revolution for Comerford.

“I started training with Chris Lindauer. I went to ISL after training for a couple of weeks. I had a really good time at ISL. It was completely different from what I have ever done in swimming. It was so refreshing to have a meet without pressure. That helped me figure out that I loved to do this. Part of that is people on my team,” she said. “When I got back to Louisville, I continued training with Chris and he has really helped me figure out that balance between life and swimming. I have been so thankful for him and his guidance this year — his love and his tough love.

“I have started lifting different and sprint training is different than what I have been doing the past six years. Mentally I have enjoyed the change and new perspective.”

The physical refreshment has led Comerford to a mental refreshment that has built more confidence heading into the World Championships.

“I am excited every time I go to practice. Last year, I kind of dreaded going to practice,” Mallory Comerford said. “This entire year, I have not gone over 5,000 in a practice. Before I was swimming 6-7K per practice. The quality and intensity is super high, but everything has a purpose that translates directly to my 100. In weights, for the first time I have learned new lifts. I feel so strong. It is fun to learn and be challenged in a new way. Some more power. I learned how to hang cling, power cling and adding different jumps to increase my power. I can tell the difference in my body. I think before my body got kind of stale because it was used to it.

“It is pretty frustrating when you are so in shape but it isn’t translating. I had realized that was happening, but I didn’t know how to communicate it or do anything about it. You have to make sure you get what you need.”

Comerford needed a refresh and transformed that into a resurgence.

“I am so excited. I am super pumped to be on the team again and be in that environment. I am really excited to be on the relay with these girls, some of whom I have never been on a relay with before. I want to help them and be there for them, but also learn from them because they are crushing it,” she said. “We got back and hit it hard in the weight room the first two days, then hard in the pool. It is just getting the training back then sharpening everything. That will get me to the quality I need to.”

Her progress puts her back on track to her ultimate goal of making the Olympic team in 2024. Comerford knows she can’t have another year of struggles, but more importantly, knows how to get out of those struggles now.

“My goal has always been to go to 2024. Making the team definitely validates that goal a little bit,” Mallory Comerford said. “It was really hard to not make the team at trials, but it was a relief to start looking at what was going on. I kept saying I needed a change, but never did anything. I will never let that happen again.

“Never again.”

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Eney Jones
13 days ago

Typo nervous four * it. I think you mean for.

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