Taylor Ruck Embracing Nerves for First NCAA Championships

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Photo Courtesy: Carl Solder

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Nerves can be detrimental to a swimmer. There is a lot of time behind the blocks that can allow doubt or nerves to overcome even the most talented swimmers.

Taylor Ruck embraces the nervousness. It is something that pushes her.

“I usually get really nervous for meets, especially the bigger they get,” Ruck told Swimming World. “The butterflies help me before the race. I think that actually helps me to be better.”

Ruck got nervous before making the Canadian Olympic team. She got nervous swimming in the Olympics. She was nervous before the Commonwealth Games and even the Pan Pacific Championships where she won the gold medal in the 200 free.

Even at that elite level, she gets nervous. But being that vulnerable is what pushes her to greatness.

Now a freshman at Stanford, the nervousness is different. Ruck wants to perform for her team, something that has never been the focal point besides Olympic relays.

It started in the fall, but Ruck really felt the team atmosphere at the Pac-12 Championships.

“My first Pac-12s. It was so fun and the atmosphere was so hype. The parent section was the best part. They were going crazy for every race,” Ruck said. “Knowing that the competition was just so great, that kind of makes me not as nervous for NCAAs. Not that I am not nervous, I definitely am. But it gives me a lot of confidence knowing how fast our conference was.”

Ruck finished second in the Pac 12 in the 100 back (50.52) and 200 back (1:48.67). She was sixth in the 50 free (22.24) and was a part of four runner-up relays.

“The team aspect of competing collegiately is unlike any other. All of us are there for each other. After each person swam, we were so supportive of each other,” Ruck said. “When Morgan (Tankersley) hit the wall and broke 16 I was tearing up. I just love that team atmosphere.”

It was part of why Ruck chose Stanford in the first place.

Stanford, Ca - February 6, 2019: Stylized portraits 2019.

Photo Courtesy: Stanford Athletics

“There were so many factors. It has good academics and a great swimming program, unlike any other school,” she said.

Ruck was born in Canada but moved to Arizona when she was 1 and stayed in the United States until her senior year of high school, after she made the Olympic team, when she decided to train in Toronto.

In 2016, Ruck was sick during the Canadian Olympic trials but made the team on relays at age 16. It was an experience that she soaked in, yet made her hungry for more.

“The Olympics were just unlike any other experience I have ever had. I don’t think I fully comprehended how big they were in the moment, where I was,” Ruck said.

“I know I want to go back again. I am relieving memories when I look at pictures. Getting bronze with my teammates set my sights on Tokyo. It was difficult right after the Olympics.

Short course worlds was a few months later, and it was in Canada, so that was great. Going from the Olympics to that made me realize what role I could play on Team Canada as an individual swimmer as well as a relay swimmer. It made me realize I shouldn’t take it easy. It showed me how much I needed to get going.”

Fast forward to 2018 when Ruck reached new levels at the Commonwealth Games, then the Pan Pacific Championships.

In the 200 free, Ruck knocked off Katie Ledecky and Rikako Ikee to win gold at PanPacs.

“That 200 free. I don’t even know how to explain it,” Ruck said. “I don’t always remember how I feel during the race, but I remember afterward. Having that competition with Katie and Rikako. I was watching my race later and watched Rikako creep up on me. It was such a great race.

“Going into the race, I tried not to think too much about going up against Katie Ledecky. It can be kind of scary, but I had raced her before. That exposure didn’t make me as nervous. It definitely boosted my confidence knowing that I could race at that level that other great competitors can. I look up to so many swimmers and being able to compete with them —  I can’t even believe it myself sometimes. I am excited for more opportunities to swim against them in the future.”

Now Ruck trains with Ledecky at Stanford.

“Getting to know Katie has been really fun. It is definitely cool to be exposed to all of this right now.
200 free at Commonwealth Games boosted my confidence in preparation for Pan Pacs. I don’t know if I could have done what I did at Pan Pacs without my performance at the Commonwealth Games,” she said.

She is looking to continue that confidence at her first NCAA meet. Ruck is seeded second in the 200 back (1:48.67), fourth in the 100 back (50.52) and fifth in the 200 free (1:42.80).

Stanford, Ca - Tuesday, October 9, 2018: Stanford women's swimming and diving opened the season with a 191-101 victory over Utah at Avery Aquatic Center.

Photo Courtesy: John Todd

“The walls, I don’t like the walls. But short course is growing on me. The adjustment has been focusing on my walls. Greg (Meehan) had me focusing on every wall on every turn in practice.”

So after such an incredible 2018, what is Ruck aiming for at NCAAs?

“I am not the type of person that makes time or place goals. I just want to have fun and represent Stanford well,” she said. “Whatever comes out of that, I will be happy with that.”

It might just be a key performance that sparks Stanford to its third consecutive NCAA championship.

Check out more NCAA Championships coverage here.

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