Weathering the Storm at Big 12s, Texas’s Evie Pfeifer Out for More at NCAAs

Evie Pfeifer; Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Weathering the Storm at Big 12s, Texas’s Evie Pfeifer Out for More at NCAAs

For all the things that Evie Pfeifer and her University of Texas teammates endured in 2020, a snow-pocalypse ahead of the 2021 Big 12 Championships seemed excessive.

Four days without running water in her swimmers’ house, others who didn’t have power and spotty access to the Texas Swimming Center as unprecedented winter storms blanketed the Lonestar State … that didn’t factor in to the normal taper plan. Instead, Pfeifer and her teammates got a mini-rest out of the climate chaos, something that yielded 16 meet records between the Longhorns men and women, in addition to the obligatory team crowns (25th straight for the men; 19 for the women).

Like everything else Pfeifer and her teammates have dealt with this year, they took the unplanned development in stride, hoping it sets them up for NCAAs this week.

“That was kind of weird leading up to it,” Pfeifer told Swimming World this week. “But I think it kind of gave everybody a little more rest, so heading into that meet, I was actually feeling pretty good. I definitely wasn’t expecting to do some of the times I did because Big 12s, at least for me, isn’t usually that fast. But I think as a team, we really knocked it out of the park and it sets us up really good moving forward.”

Pfeifer had an outstanding meet, setting Big 12 marks in the 500 free (4:36.35) and the 1,650 (15:48.65). The latter is also a program record, unseating the mark set by Joanna Evans, the Bahamian Olympian who Pfeifer swam with early in her Texas career and with whom she still trains at Longhorn Aquatics.


Evie Pfeifer; Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

“Honestly, I wasn’t thinking about that record. I really, really want our 500 record; it’s 4:35.0 in the 500,” Pfeifer said. “That’s the one I really have my eye on. The mile, I don’t really think about that much. I just kind of get in and do it and just send everything, pretend it’s a distance workout and I was really surprised that ended up being my time. That was pretty cool.”

Pfeifer is hoping that at NCAAs, she’ll be able to catch up with a past version of herself, at least in terms of placement.  As a freshman, she took sixth in the 500 free, 11th in the 400 IM and 12th in the mile at NCAAs. She was less happy with her showing as a sophomore (seventh, 23rd and 13th, respectively).

She expected the 2020 NCAA championships to be a comeback tour. She had work to do according to the psych sheets, seeded between 16th and 19th in her events, but she hoped that being fully rested off Big 12s would give her a chance to show what she could do. She was the only one of the five Texas swimmers entered in three individual events.

But COVID-19 cancelled those NCAAs, something Pfeifer has turned the page on.

“Last year, that one really hurt,” Pfeifer said. “Luckily it wasn’t my senior year and I didn’t get cut off. …

“This year, I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to actually do those things this year.”

She’s in position to do just that. Pfeifer is seeded third in the 500 free, with a best time of 4:35.73 from the December invite and one of only three auto cuts in the nation. She’s also third in the mile, again with an A cut, and fifth in the IM.

The pressure isn’t on, because Pfeifer will take a fifth year, which the NCAA made available last October. A mechanical engineer major, she still has one more semester of studies, so extending her eligibility to the spring is “a no-brainer.”

This year, seven Texas swimmers are entered in individual events, though Pfeifer is the only senior. Five Longhorns are freshmen or sophomores who’ve never done NCAAs before, not that Pfeifer is worried about their ability to cope.

“Our freshmen and sophomores, they’re professionals,” she said. “They really know how to handle themselves. They’ve been so professional this year. The freshmen obviously don’t know what it’s like to have a normal college season, but it’s been crazy seeing them being so excited to throw down at any opportunity we have and they know how to operate under that kind of pressure. They’re all great swimmers, and they’ve been in this spot at meets before.”