Rigorous routine takes distance swimmer to the top

Team captain Laurin Williams, a junior, is one of the team’s best long-distance swimmers. She has been winning long-distance races since she was in seventh grade. (Julia Leiby | For The Post)

When Laurin Williams touched the wall after the 1,000-yard freestyle race against Youngstown State in February, she looked around and took a couple of breaths.

She didn’t need to hurry out of the water, as other swimmers were still not done with the race. After all, the first Penguin swimmer finished 34 seconds later.

In a time when decisions  in swimming have come down to a matter of milliseconds, Williams waits for her competition to finish — even at conference meets.

At the Mid-American Conference Championships, Williams won her first-ever individual title in the 1,650-yard freestyle and finished eight seconds ahead of Eastern Michigan’s Briana Emig.

Williams broke her own school record at the 1,000-yard mark, but narrowly missed it by 0.6 seconds at the end of the race.

“We didn’t put everything on the table for the MAC Championships,” Ohio coach Greg Werner said. “We saved a little bit, and I hope we will see that this week (at the NCAA Championship).”

After placing 23rd in the 1,650-yard freestyle last year, Williams wanted to return to the national stage.

She has lived for this moment.

Williams started her distance-swimming career in seventh grade when she joined a swim club in her hometown of Shoreline, Wash. Two years later, she finished in the top eight in the 500-yard freestyle at the state championship and capped her high school career with a third-place finish in the same event her junior year.

Werner, however, admits her recruitment was a complete coincidence, as Williams did not live within Ohio’s usual recruitment region.

“My assistant was at junior nationals, which were in Washington,” Werner said.

“They talked for 30 minutes and convinced her to come out to Ohio for a visit.”
Williams was won over by the program right away.

“Everybody that is coming here improves,” she said, adding that her family now flies out to Ohio several times a year to see her swim. “You don’t want to go to a college where you see that swimmers die out.”

After finishing fifth in the 1,650-yard freestyle at the MAC Championships her freshman year and her NCAA appearance last year, Williams is the only swimmer to have qualified for the NCAA championship for two consecutive years in the last 12 years.

Her way to the top, however, wasn’t easy. The junior practices year-round with practices way beyond the 10,000-yard mark.

“I do get bored (in the water) all the time,” she said. She can tell stories about suddenly finding water bubbles interesting after hours of swimming. “I zone out; I have stories in my head. I try to repeat what I learned in class, and I sing songs.”

Whenever she is asked how she motivates herself to practice, the only answer she has is routine.

“After I am done with schooling next year, it is going to be weird to not have anything to do between three and six, because that’s how it has been forever,” Williams said.

It’s routine that will be needed at the NCAA Championships. This championship is more stressful for swimmers than any other competition is, Werner said.

“Everyone that is there has earned the right to be there,” he said.

Williams earned it, too — by practicing, by thinking about water bubbles and by waiting for her competition to finish.

am794811@ohiou.edu

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