Mallory Comerford: ‘Finally Feeling Like Myself in the Water’ Heading Into Olympic Trials

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Mallory Comerford: ‘Finally Feeling Like Myself in the Water’ Heading Into Olympic Trials

Mallory Comerford rose to become one of the world’s best swimmers through regimented training, a clear focus and planning ahead.

But since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Comerford, like most swimmers, lost her regular routine with the ever-changing circumstances. For someone who relies on routine, it was an extremely difficult situation, something that Comerford is still dealing with more than a year later as she prepares for the Olympic Trials.

“It has definitely been a different journey than I expected it to be. There have been a few extra road bumps,” Comerford told Swimming World. “But I am at the best place I have been in a while. I feel really encouraged going into Trials. I am looking forward to racing.”

It took a while to get there, however.

“I have had to make some adjustments of things through some injuries. We have come up with a new plan. The hardest part of it for me is it not going as planned,” she said. “I am someone who likes to plan ahead in my head.”

It didn’t help that she was going through some physical ailments.

“From October until March or so, I was really struggling in the pool, mainly practice-wise,” she said. “I started off getting some bloodwork done and going through some things. We are pretty sure I had mono in the fall. I had some other personal health issues that weren’t allowing my body to recover. We did a full reset in March and that allowed my body time to heal.

“We started with swimming an hour a day then built things up until there.  It was hard but it was good to see my body recover throughout the process. Knowing how my body has adjusted has been really encouraging.”

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Mallory Comerford. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

But it was the mental toll that the ailments and the lack of routine began to increase.

“It is definitely challenging at times, especially mentally. The most important thing I have learned is keeping things in perspective. I was struggling in the pool and didn’t understand why. That was really frustrating,” she said. “The hardest part especially being so close to trials, swimming is so regimented, especially the way I train, that breaking that routine — especially one that has been working — was something different and in swimming, different can be scary.”

It started with the pandemic. Different forms of exercise and less time in the pool were dynamic changes for a professional swimmer.

“I did not get out of shape at all. I have done so much work and my body was still processing it as work. It was just a different stimulus and different recovery,” Comerford said.

After a few months out of the water Comerford slowly picked up pieces of her routine.

“We got back into the water in June. We got to swim outside, which was great. We started off once a day, then had some doubles. We had a time trial at the end of the summer and I swam well but nothing crazy. A 1:44 was pretty good considering how the year went.”

Comerford’s Coming of Age

At the 2016 Olympic trials, Mallory Comerford was a relatively unknown swimmer. She won some state championships in Michigan before heading to Louisville for college.

“In 2016 at trials, I knew nothing. I had been to nationals, but didn’t really know about anything. I have learned how those meets work and how to handle the nerves that go along with it,” she said.

After a year at Louisville, Comerford’s career skyrocketed, leading to multiple NCAA titles and a spot on the U.S. national team.

“In 2017, I swam really well because I had nothing to prove. I have nothing to prove this year. I am just going to race. There are some really talented girls and to have the opportunity to be in contention for the Olympic team is amazing,” she said. “I think it was great that (my rise) came after the Olympic year so I had time to build all of that.”

That transformation began with weight training at Louisville, a relatively new part of the process for Comerford.

“I think the main thing is I did nothing in high school. I did a little bit of dry land here and there. I never really lifted or knew how that affected swimming. It started when I got to college. That got the ball rolling and I have kept the ball rolling.I like lifting and I like working out outside the water. I liked playing other sports. I like the challenge that brings,” Comerford said.

“I don’t ever remember a point from year to year that I increased my bench by X amount of pounds, it was a gradual process.
I have been challenging my body in different ways. I definitely got stronger over quarantine. I was lifting a lot and really heavy since I wasn’t swimming.”

It was all Comerford could do at times to remain in shape and with a high level of strength, especially in her legs.

“I was doing lot of lower body stuff, running, cycling. My legs were the best they have ever been. I really enjoy that it gives me a break from the water or adds something to being in the pool,” she said. “It is definitely a huge factor. A lot of it has to to do with being able to transferring the power into the pool and also being aware of how my body is connected. A lot of it comes from my core and how that connects to everything.

“A lot of what we focus on is how is this going to translate into the water, not just getting stronger. It has been huge.”
And has led to huge performances.

Pro Life In a Pandemic

Part of what has helped Mallory Comerford have the time to focus on her strength and preparation is the fact that she is a professional swimmer.

She is not worried about classes or work or anything else, though that path has its ups and downs.

“I love that swimming is my job. Some days are harder and more stressful than others. I have learned to admit that it is challenging. This is the pressure that I feel. If I keep it inside of me, it just explodes,” she said. “It is a process and something I am trying to work on. I think it has given me an opportunity to learn so much from so many different people, which has been huge. I have build a support team with Louisville, USA Swimming and my best friends on the national team. I am pumped to race with them and be surrounded by that. I want to swim for as long as I possibly can. It has been great to me and I have the resources to do it. Moving forward I know I need to do something else as well, whether that be classes or a hobby. School used to take this place.”

Comerford is now focused on the Trials with a goal of making the Olympic team.

“Obviously the thought is there. I would be lying if I said I didn’t think about it. It is my goal and my dream. It is the greatest honor, but I have a lane and I have a chance. I want to be the best Mallory I can in that moment,” she said.

Comerford will swim the 50, 100 and 200 freestyles as well as the 100 butterfly with the 100 and 200 free the best of her races. Those events also have relay spots, but Comerford knows her best race could be more than just getting a relay spot.

“My goal is to make it individually. But being on the team is being on the team. It is more exciting to me. Relays are my favorite thing about swimming. Knowing I could be in a relay at that level is exciting,” she said.

Adding to the excitement is the fact that Comerford feels back to form in the water.

“The past three-four weeks, I have been crushing practice. It has been really hard work. I have had the best practice I have had since pre-COVID. Getting out of a practice like that is so encouraging,” Mallory Comerford said. “I finally feel like myself in the water. For a long time, I felt so heavy and like there was a parachute holding me back in the water. Now everything is moving in the right direction.”

2 comments

  1. avatar
    Yozhik

    I wish her to make Olympic Team. Americans need 52 sec sprinter.

  2. avatar
    Kathy

    You speak of an attitude of acceptance that difficulties and upsets are part of the journey…your strength lies in figuring out how to work around and overcome the bumps in the road. Godspeed, Mallory!

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