Q&A With Big Ten Freshman of the Year Tevyn Waddell

Photo Courtesy: Maddie Kyler

By Matthew Barnard, Swimming World College Intern.

Tevyn Waddell had a breakthrough performance at the 2017 Big Ten Swimming and Diving Championships winning the 100 back and claiming the crown of conference freshman of the year. Waddell, a Mitchell, South Dakota native, asserted her position in the Big Ten as a major point scorer for the Minnesota Golden Gophers having contributed not only in her individual events but as a significant player in relays. Swimming life wasn’t easy for Waddell in a small town but now she is looking forward to heading into her first NCAA Championships with a number of hefty credentials to her name.

Swimming World caught up with Waddell to talk life in Mitchell, the Big Ten, and looking ahead.

Swimming World: Tell me a little bit about Mitchell, South Dakota.

Tevyn Waddell: Mitchell is a small town of about 15,000 people, I think there is only one high school where I graduated from with a class of 200. It has the worlds only corn palace, but besides that it is pretty boring. We did nothing on the weekends, so we sometimes hung out in corn fields, people don’t believe me when I tell them that.

SW: How was swimming as an elite athlete in such a small town?

TW: It was hard, especially because when I was in middle school we had our pool taken away from us in Mitchell so we had to drive 45 minutes one way to swim three times a week and the rest of the time I would swim at a pool that was 17 meters which is obviously not the right distance. Now the team practices in an above ground, soft sided, pool in an old Campbell’s supply garage. It has four lanes, and is only four feet deep all around. But we just got approved for a new pool which is really nice. I didn’t really do weights at all, but I think having to break through all this adversity has definitely helped me.

SW: How was it coming from such a small town to the Twin Cities?

TW: It was a really big transition, I come to Minneapolis and there are three pools here on campus now, all having eight lanes. I wasn’t able to do starts back home so I just had to go for that at meets. The training, the weights, the intensity, is so different to back home but in a good way.

SW: How has it been training with such a strong group of women at Minnesota?

TW: Coming from South Dakota I just swam by myself against the clock and honestly it was hard swimming by yourself. Coming here and having a team with someone next to you allows me to compete with them. Having Brooke Zeiger and Chantal Nack and everyone else push me has helped me a lot.

SW: How was the Big Ten Championship meet as a whole?

TW: The meet was exactly how all the girls said it would be. It’s the best meet of the whole year, it’s what everyone gets amped up and ready for. Especially having a team at a big meet like this was really new to me. Even going to junior nationals I was the only one, I sat by myself with only my coach, so having people to cheer for and having relays and being with this team is something I will never forget. It was the best time ever.

SW: Talk me through the event you won, the 100 back.

TWI had no idea that I was going to win that event, Beata Nelson was going in as the number one seed and I’ve raced against her throughout high school and she has always beat me every single time. So I knew going in that it was going to be a tough race and if I wanted to get it I had to really go for it. Once I hit the wall I just couldn’t believe it, I was so surprised, I had tears of joy, I could hear my team yelling, there was just so much going on. It was a feeling that I had never experienced before.

SW: What are you looking forward to heading in NCAA’s?

TW: I’m really looking forward to once again just going to the meet and experiencing it as a freshman for the first time. I’m very excited for the 100 back to see how that is going to go and just swim my best, hope for finals, but I’m really excited for our relays because we are ranked really well.