Regan Smith on National Title After Spectacular Worlds: ‘I Want to Stay Hungry’

Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

That is an awful lot to deal with for someone who still has a year of high school to go.

But the 17-year-old Smith has proven to be unlike most teenagers. She swims faster but has a stunning maturity that keeps everything in perspective — which will prove to be pivotal.

“That meet was such a high and we came straight here. Coming into this meet, I wanted to focus on having fun,” Smith said. “Regardless of how last week went (it was the focus of the summer), I wanted to not put any pressure on myself and just race.”

She did that by winning the 200-meter butterfly to open the 2019 Phillips 66 US National Championships on Wednesday, finishing in 2:07.26.

Smith broke Missy Franklin’s world record in the 200 backstroke 2:03.35 — a 7-year-old record. Then, Smith led off the American gold-medal winning 400 medley relay in a world record of 57.57, breaking Kathleen Baker’s mark — plus the relay broke the world record in 3:50.40.

“I definitely surprised myself last week. I was so shocked and still don’t really believe it,” Regan Smith said. “I never thought I would be at this level. I just wanted to make an individual final at worlds. I wanted to perform better for Team USA, that was my big motivation. I still don’t view myself in that way (the world’s elite). And I don’t want to lose that mentality.”

It was a teen phenom performance mirroring that of Franklin in 2012.

“It is really cool that I am following in her footsteps because I look up to her so much,” she said.

How do you follow that? By winning something else.

It started well for Smith, who took the top seed in the 200 butterfly to open the meet and followed it up with a close victory over Lillie Nordmann (2:07.43).

It was a statement in her future home pool as well, as Smith has committed to Stanford, which has transformed into a dynasty of college swimming the past few years. It is a place she will be pushed on a daily basis, by a plethora of teammates.

That is what happened for Regan Smith on the national team as well, especially at the world championships.

Smith said she isn’t staying for the entire meet, but has already put her stamp on one of the most impressive two-week spans any swimmer has ever put together — and she doesn’t realize how special it is. Or maybe she does, but she is not letting herself feel that way, which will be the key to her future success now that the spotlight is upon her.

Going through the rigor and travel of a world championships, then piggy-backing a national championship is a huge step to prepare Smith for her ultimate goal of making the 2020 Olympic team.

“I want to stay hungry. Before last week, I felt like I belonged at the world’s scene, but didn’t feel like I was a force to be reckoned with,” she said. “Now, coming away from that, I feel really confident going into next summer. I can’t think about Tokyo until we get past trials, but I am hoping that goes well.”

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