Taylor Ruck Surges to Spectacular 200 Freestyle Victory Cementing Road Back From Eating Disorder With First NCAA Title (VIDEO)

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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This was Taylor Ruck’s moment. It wasn’t about Stanford needing points against Virginia. It wasn’t about Lia Thomas and the transgender swimming debate. It was about Taylor Ruck and her resurgence into the world’s elite.

After struggling through the pandemic, with an eating disorder and a disappointing couple of years in the water, Taylor Ruck is back and showed that with a dominating performance to win the 200 freestyle.

With so much talk surrounding transgender swimmer Lia Thomas of Penn, who won the 500 freestyle, Ruck dominated the field that included Thomas to earn her first individual NCAA championship.

“It was quite the few minutes. I was pretty nervous before, like every race. I just tried to think of what I did in prelims and see if I could to top it. I tried to do my race strategy, do my breathing before and try not to let the nerves overcome me. I think that was one of my favorite races I’ve ever done with the crowd going crazy and my teammates hugging me afterward,” Taylor Ruck said.

Ruck won the race in 1:41.12 to hold off Cal’s Isabel Ivey (1:41.59) and break the pool record in the event. Thomas finished tied for fifth.

“Honestly I just came into this meet wanting to focus on my own performances. I know there was a bit of chatter about Lia being here. But usually I just try to zone everything out and focus on what I can do to be the best I can be on that very day,” Ruck said. “Coming into today, I was just thinking competition is competition. I was excited to be able to race some people who were so fast.”

Results

Taylor Ruck’s time was eighth-fastest in history, something she showed a glimpse of with a 1:40 relay split in the 800 free relay on Wednesday.

But with the focused attention on this race, and it being the first of her two events on the night, it was sensational.

Ruck made the past two Olympic teams for Canada and talked about a struggle with a severe eating disorder in between those two Games.

She went on to have an OK Canadian Trials and an OK performance at the Olympics, far from the phenom that made the Olympics at 16, or the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships where she topped Olympic gold medalists Katie Ledecky and Ariarne Titmus head-to-head in the 200 free.

“It certainly has been a journey since Pan Pacs. Lots of downs, more than the ups. I think the past few years have just been very hard for everyone,” Taylor Ruck said. “Everyone has had their own path and journey through it, and mine happens to be through an eating disorder. I’m happy to say I’m more on the other side of that struggle and I’m open to talking about it with anybody. If anybody is going through the same things, It does get better.”

Ruck went on to make her second Olympic team in Tokyo, and although the meet didn’t go quite as well as she had hoped, she brought her career Olympic medal total to four, and it was a huge stepping stone toward her success just months later.

“I think building the energy back up from that, it takes a long time,” Taylor Ruck said of her eating disorder. “I think it’s important to not put a time limit on how you recover from one. It will come when it comes. I think that’s been an important mental thing that I’ve had to keep I the back of my mind. The energy has been building up that whole year. Just fueling my body has been very important and being surrounded by people who support that, too… (Mentality, stressful in 2019) Remembering that, I think that got me hyped for this meet, too.”

The pandemic didn’t make things easier for Ruck, who had to isolate at the Canadian border before moving in with her grandparents for a while, then having to quarantine again when she moved to the High Performance Centre in Toronto to train for the Olympics.

She took an Olympic redshirt year to train, then once the pandemic hit, she did the same thing again, keeping her away from her Stanford teammates for two years.

“I like how you said ‘piece of the puzzle’ because it kind of feels like it’s being completed in a way. Leaving Stanford for the first time was really hard. Once I was in Canada, I realized the foundation I built at Stanford. It was hard leaving my friends and my family… I’m just so grateful to be a part of it and witness it and just be able to support everybody as they go through the season,” Taylor Ruck said.

What is it about Stanford? It has been on Taylor Ruck’s mind since she was 10.

“I just have this one memory. We used to drive up every year to Kelowna in Canada,” she said. “I just remember walking by the pool, Avery Aquatic Center, and seeing all the girls practicing, and I was like, ‘This is where I want to go.’”

This season she is finally back at Stanford, and back on the top of the podium.

Ruck wasn’t done, taking 10th in the 100 backstroke in 51.07 in the second half of her Friday night double.

She spent the very few minutes in between warming down in the far corner of the diving well, so she could get right out and accept her award for the 200 free, then hop in line to enter for the 100 backstroke.

It is something few have attempted and even fewer have succeeded with. If that wasn’t enough, she anchored the Stanford 400 medley relay that finished third.

“It’s 200 back tomorrow. Hopefully a good night’s rest,” Taylor Ruck said. “I am excited for tomorrow.”

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Swim Fan
10 months ago

Congrats to Taylor! We are deeply moved by your journey & the beautiful kind hearted warrior you are!