By Bob Schaller//Correspondent
Don’t look now, but the 200 breaststroke is once again among women’s events that the U.S. is developing great depth in this quadrennial. Along with Breeja Larson, the 200 counts World Championships bronze medalist and 2012 Olympian Micah Lawrence among its talented group. The native Texan, by way of New Mexico, swam collegiately at Auburn, and now swims at SwimMAC, as she explains in this week’s 20 Question Tuesday.
1. What’s going on training-wise for you?
Micah: Right now I am training for the Mutual of Omaha Duel in the Pool, which is in December. It’s an interesting event to go to because it’s short course meters, and the USA vs. Europe kind of format. That will let us know where we are at, me and David.
2. David Marsh, former Auburn coach heading up SwimMAC now, how good of a fit are you working with him?
Micah: Oh, he is probably the best coach for me right now. He has a plan set out. He knows, because we have worked together for a while now, how I work. He really tailors sets for me if I need it. If I am not feeling so well one day, he’ll have me work on something else.
3. Auburn football back on the rise, War Eagle?
Micah: I mean, oh man, when we hit 7-1 instead of 1-7, that was nice! It’s good that we’re doing well again, and the morale of the team is actually positive. It’s a good thing.
4. You didn’t swim for David per se but certainly you knew of his myriad of accomplishments at Auburn, right?
Micah: David was an Auburn coach and when you are at Auburn you hear a lot about David’s legacy. You see all those NCAA banners, and you know a majority of those were from when he was coaching.
5. How did you begin working with him?
Micah: In 2010 when I was at Pan Pacs, I was put under his care during the training part, and it worked really well for me. I always enjoyed the way that he handled things and the way that he coached.
6. What was it like swimming for Auburn?
Micah: There was a lot of tradition there. A lot of times that is the part that I miss, the way the teams came together. The circuits and drylands we had together (men’s and women’s team) were great experiences. SECs were always my favorite meet; we had the men and the women there, and that was a great feeling there, to have the entire team together. It was a lot of fun.
7. You are originally from a town near Austin, right?
Micah: Yes, and I definitely liked Pflugerville. Instead of going to UT Austin and being so close to home, I wanted to branch out a little, even though UT is a great school and the area is so nice. It would definitely be great to go back and live in Austin.
8. What was living in Auburn like?
Micah: I didn’t think that Auburn was that much different than Pflugerville. I didn’t have a hard time adjusting to it. I enjoyed Auburn. Except for my senior year, I lived with swimmers and was around the team consistently. It helped me remain in the sport of swimming, really, having that support and presence from teammates. Auburn is more like Pflugerville in that it is rural, compared to some of the schools that are in big cities.
9. What did you study?
Micah: I majored in graphic design. I am actually at Queens University (of Charlotte) now, a comparatively small university that one of our coaches, Peter Verhoef, works at now, so Team Elite is kind of tied to Queens. We don’t really train with them but we swim at their pool.
10. How did you end up there?
Micah: When I moved up to Charlotte it seemed a good way to finish up my degree as well as train with David.
11. What do you think of Charlotte?
Micah: Charlotte is beautiful. It’s definitely a different kind of town than I would have expected, because it seems like a city, but it’s very clean. It’s very green. There are so many trees everywhere. It’s very different from what I am used to.
12. So you started there for the run-up to 2012 but were you going to return to Auburn?
Micah: Actually at that point I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I was just going to swim the summer and see if I wanted to go back to Auburn and finish up there or come here and go to school and swim at the same time. At Auburn, I am not sure I could do school at the same time, because my major there has a full slate of studio courses, which was really draining. One of the reasons I didn’t have a successful short course career is I really focused on school – it has always been very important to me to put “student” before “athlete.”
13. What were the 2012 Olympic Trials like?
Micah: It was (laughs) pretty nerve-racking. The whole reason I had left school was to make the team. It had all come down to that. I was trying not to put too much pressure on myself. I felt like if I didn’t make it I had left school for no reason. But the coaches at SwimMAC pushed the process over the outcome. Right before we started the meet, I sat down, and I realized, “This has been one of the best years of my life, if I don’t get where I am going, at least I know I have learned a lot and I have enjoyed the process of that.” So Trials were nerve-racking, but I was going to be content either way (laughs) hopefully.
14. Were you really pumped up or nervous for the race?
Micah: There was a moment there when I felt really calm. That was the last race that I had to do. I hadn’t done as well as I hoped until the 200, but I knew I was really going for the 200.
15. What was the plan if you didn’t make it?
Micah: I definitely went in thinking of every possible outcome. We all had our plan Bs just in case. Mine was to go home and hang out with my parents and my sisters for the rest of the summer. I probably would have learned how to surf.
16. The whole mood at SwimMAC, and I know from hearing from Kara Lynn Joyce who joined for the final run-up, seemed very positive, is that how you felt?
Micah: Well, it was actually very positive. I didn’t really have any expectations for Trials, and I never wanted to look past Trials – I am a little bit superstitious in that regard, that I didn’t want to think about “not making it.”
17. What about the mood on the 2012 team?
Micah: It all seemed pretty chill to me, because we all had our own thing to do, but we were all in it together. There wasn’t a bunch of drama where people were competing against each other in training camp. We all got to learn from the veterans, and training with different people.
18. To final at the Olympics must’ve been another dream come true – do you realize now what an incredible accomplishment that is?
Micah: Oh my goodness, I was actually really scared (laughs) during the prelims! I guess I didn’t think about how I’d present myself at the Olympics, so I walked out on deck and there was a camera on me – my cap wasn’t on straight, and I pulled down the wrong side! I started breaking out and (getting red), and I got back to David, and he said, “You were a little scared?” I said, “Yeah, a little bit.” I definitely calmed down for finals. I was ready for it. It was like, “I came here to do something and now I would like to it.”
19. Those people from the 2012 Olympic team and 2013 World team – a pretty special bunch you won’t forget?
Micah: Oh definitely, I am going to remember those amazing people and the way that we all connected. They are always near to my heart. It’s going to be interesting going through this time with new faces, and seeing how we connect this time around.
20. What did the bronze at 2013 Worlds in Barcelona mean to you?
Micah: You know what? I didn’t really have the best year. I’m not going to say that it was horrible and I didn’t learn anything, because I did learn a lot over the course of the year. But I kind of had trouble getting back into swimming after coming back from London, and getting where I wanted to be. It was really interesting. I prepared quite well for World Trials, I will say that. I was with David and I worked hard. But I didn’t feel like I was hitting the paces I wanted to. I didn’t feel like it was possible for me to go that fast again. I wasn’t quite sure where I was. I got so much encouragement while I was at (World Team) Trials that it helped me mentally put together what I was working on. I worked through the training trip and got to the point where I could do a best time. That was a relief. But I don’t feel like I figured it out until May, and that’s when I got back into it. There was a point where I finally put the pedal to the medal and worked it out.