Sept. 21, 2010
Below is a feature on Auburn junior Micah Lawrence, who swam in her first international even this summer as she competed at the 2010 Pan Pacific Championships.
By Mike Watkins
USA Swimming Correspondent
When Micah Lawrence was first learning to swim as a 7-year-old in her local pool, she often pretended she was a mermaid, feet and legs locked together as she cut through the water with speed and precision.
These days, while she still lacks the fin and scales (and can't breathe underwater despite her many efforts as a child), Lawrence is doing a much more convincing impression, and it's resulting in some of the fastest times in the world.
Two weeks ago at the 2010 Mutual of Omaha Pan Pacific Championships in Irvine, Calif., Lawrence won the "B" final in the 200 breaststroke in a personal-best 2:25.19, and finished second in the "B" final of the 100 breast in 1:07.85 (another personal-best).
Her preliminary time of 2:25.90 in the 200 breast would have qualified her for the "A" final had American teammates Rebecca Soni (the eventual champion) and Olympic veteran Amanda Beard not finished ahead of her. Pan Pac rules stipulate that only two swimmers from each country are allowed to swim in championship final.
Nonetheless, Lawrence, a junior at Auburn, found the experience to be a progressive step toward her dream of one day swimming at the Olympics.
"It was just an overall amazing experience," said Lawrence, who hails from Pflugerville, Texas. "I got to meet a lot of people who have been in the top levels of swimming for a long time. It was very interesting to learn from them. As for my races during the meet, I didn't worry so much about them because I was really there for the experience."
Pan Pacs was Lawrence's first senior international meet and came on the heels of her standout performances at the ConocoPhillips USA Swimming National Championships. At that meet, held in the same Irvine pool, Lawrence surprised many (herself included) by finishing third in the 100 breast behind Soni and Annie Chandler. She was eighth in the 200.
While she had enjoyed some success at junior events, and just missed making the semifinals of the 200 breast at 2008 Olympic Trials, Nationals proved in many ways to be Lawrence's coming out party, a celebration she hopes continues for years to come.
"I think you could call it my breakthrough meet," said Lawrence, who enjoys drawing, making shirts and baking in her free time and aspires to be a tattoo artist at some point in her life. "It was really the first national meet I've attended with a large group. It makes a big difference having a large team behind you, cheering for all of your races."
Now, as she preps for the start of her third season at Auburn, Lawrence, brimming with confidence, is ready to tackle new challenges.
She intends to use what she learned about herself and international competition to her advantage in her Southeastern Conference (SEC) and NCAA meets this season as she prepares for next summer's World University Games.
"I'm just taking in the international experience, because in both Pan Pacs and NCAAs, it's extremely important to be able to go fast in the morning to earn your spot for the finals," said Lawrence, a graphic design major, who also has a future interest in designing video games. "I was really glad to have the opportunity to compete against the best in the world. It gives me some confidence going into the college season."
Two years removed from her first Olympic Trials in Omaha, Lawrence attributes weight training at Auburn as one of the biggest reasons she has steadily dropped time her freshman and sophomore seasons.
Under the instruction of her coaches, she said she has also refined her stroke and done some other small things to make her more competitive in the pool.
"My coaches have tightened up some of the details of my stroke and are still trying to get me to use my arms in accordance with my legs," said Lawrence, whose name, Micah, comes from the Old Testament in the Bible. "As for improving, I've got quite a ways to go, I feel. There are so many technical aspects that really need some fixing. And I feel I could be stronger, as well."
Being a relatively new face and name on the international scene herself, Lawrence has some advice for those athletes waiting for their own breakthrough.
"I would tell them to keep it up and to listen to their coaches!" Lawrence said. "I don't believe I would be anywhere near where I am without all the fantastic people that have coached me."