Rhyan White Aims for NCAA Title and Build on Alabama’s Rise Into the Elite

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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The 2021 NCAA Championships were a breakout party for Rhyan White and the Alabama women’s swimming and diving team.

It jumpstarted a remarkable year for White all over the world.

And for Alabama, it was an opportunity to put the rest of the college teams on notice that the Crimson Tide are on the rise.

“Going into NCAAs last year, our team was going through a big coaching change. We just tried our best to stick together and show unity. Everyone was wondering how we were doing to do with that situation,” Rhyan White told Swimming World. “We swam super well and that really just set us up for a good summer.”

While White swam extremely well at NCAAs, it was hard not to be a little disappointed, finishing runnerup in both backstroke events.

“At NCAAs, I got second in both of my events. I was really devastated. I thought winning was something I could have accomplished. I saw my teammates on the relay get there and I wanted that feeling,” she said. “I wanted to win Trials and make the Olympic Team. NCAAs was motivation. I try to look toward what is next to use things for motivation.”

That was the case at the SEC Championships as she claimed both backstroke titles for the third time.

White qualified for the Olympics in both backstroke events, a stellar feat especially considering the backstroke depth on the women’s side in the U.S.

“I try not to put too much pressure on myself or have expectations, but we all have that pressure,” she said. “We have a lot of really good competition, especially with Regan Smith. The backstroke events are going to be stacked.

“I never picked the backstroke, it kind of picked me.”

White was already athletic before she got to Alabama or made the Olympic Team. But college took that to another level.

“When I got to college, I started lifting. I am not sure why this event is so full of fast people and we as a group try to hold that standard. I am super competitive and I love that about the backstroke. I will always have a chance because no one is so far ahead of everyone else,” White said.

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Rhyan White. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

White thrives under that competition, like she has her entire life, growing up in Utah with a large family.

“I have older brothers and we were always playing games and competing, and fighting. It was great. I like to be under pressure,” she said. “When I was younger, probably 10 until 14, I did power tumbling with my sister. It paired super well with swimming. My backstroke start has a really good arch from learning to do back handsprings. I started moving to swimming only at 14. My sister did cheer in high school and I did that my sophomore and junior year. Then senior year, the focus was all swimming again. I am really happy I did it. It was something to just be a regular high school student. I felt like a normal kid because swimming takes up so much of your time.”

But that time led White to the dream of making an Olympic Team.

White earned a silver medal in the medley relay in Tokyo and finished fourth in both backstroke events. An incredible performance, but like NCAAs, it left White with a sense of disappointment after missing the medal podium by one spot.

“I go back and forth between it still stinging and feeling like I am past it,” Rhyan White said. “Getting fourth is tough. Getting the silver medal from the relay is great, but fourth is tough. But it was a really cool experience and that group will never be the same again. I am super lucky to have gone.”

White was the first Olympic swimmer from Utah, something that she takes immense pride in.

“Not a lot of people swim collegiately from Utah. I am the first summer Olympian from Utah. I got so much support. It is really incredible. I feel super proud to be from Utah. I hope the young swimmers in the state can look up to me. I am hoping it will help the sport of swimming in Utah,” she said.

And White isn’t done building her state’s legacy in the water, either.

GREENSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA - MARCH 20: A general view of the 200 Yard Backstroke Championship Final during the Division I Women’s Swimming & Diving Championships held at the Greensboro Aquatic Center on March 20, 2021 in Greensboro, North Carolina. (Photo by Mike Comer/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Rhyan White (center). Photo Courtesy: Mike Comer/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

She has been an All-American at the NCAA Championships, and Olympic medalist and then competed for Team USA again at the Short Course World Championships.

Those have showcased her ability to thrive in all courses in the water.

“I am probably most comfortable long-course meters. I have strengths in each course. I am pretty good underwater, which helps me short course, and I have a pretty good stroke rate, which helps long course. My technique doesn’t change too much, it is more like changing between the 100 and 200. I just focus on finishing well. Dry land weights helps me with power and catching and pulling,” White said. “I am comfortable in all three and that the most important thing.”

That comfort, and confidence will go a long way as White heads to the NCAA Championships with the goal of winning a championship, and leading her team to new heights.

“It is going to be super special,” Rhyan White said. “I think people know we can do some damage. The best part of where we are is that we let people know who we were last year, but we are still the underdogs. We don’t have anything to lose and we will go in full steam.”