Stanford University senior and All-American breaststroker Zoe Bartel announced that she’s stepping away from competitive swimming on Monday.
Bartel, who was in action this past weekend at the NC State Invitational in Greensboro, made an announcement on Instagram and also shared her reasons for stepping away with SwimSwam.
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Bartel made it clear that her decision is simply because she doesn’t have the desire to continue competing, and has nothing to do with Stanford swimming & diving or her performances since joining the Cardinal in the fall of 2018.
“I decided to end my swimming career early this fall,” Bartel said. “For better or worse, people like to take headlines and run with them, so I wrote this short piece to explain my decision and (hopefully) dispel some of the Stanford slander that will almost inevitably follow.
“Let me be very clear: my choice has nothing to do with Stanford swimming or my performances since coming to school.
“This is a personal matter, and I’ve been incredibly blessed with the support of my family, coaches and teammates throughout my 15 years of competitive swimming.
“That being said, my decision was not easy by any means. My life and most of my relationships have been woven in the context of swimming. Stepping away feels like abandoning the family that raised me and loved me even when I was at my worst.”
The 21-year-old says she’s always enjoyed the relationships she made through swimming rather than the sport itself, and has found outside interests recently that propel her to move on from racing.
“When it comes down to it, swimming is not something I truly love. Those of you who know my story a little better know that has always been true. What I’ve loved about this sport are the people I’ve gotten to grow with, and the purpose it has given me when I didn’t feel like I had one. I’ve struggled with my mental health for a long time, and swimming has consistently complicated these struggles. I used the daily grind of swimming to exhaust my demons rather than have to deal with them head-on. This sport simultaneously saved me from myself and clouded my understanding of who I am and how to be that person.
“This fall I’ve been happier than I’ve been in a long time. I discovered academic interests and passions that make me excited for life past graduation, and I’m finally ready to give myself a purpose. Fortunately, Stanford and the continuous support of my coaches has made it possible for me to both discover and pursue these interests.”
A native of Fort Collins, Colo., Bartel joined the Cardinal as a freshman in the 2018-19 season, helping Stanford to the 2019 NCAA team title while becoming an Honorable Mention All-American in the 200 breaststroke by finishing 11th overall.
As a sophomore she place third in both the 100 and 200 breast at the 2020 Pac-12s prior to NCAAs being canceled due to the pandemic, going on to earn All-American status in both the 100 and 200 breast. Last year, Bartel placed 31st in the 200 breast, 35th in the 100 breast and 56th in the 200 IM at the 2021 NCAAs in her junior season.
At last weekend’s NC State Invite, she finished seventh in the women’s 100 breast (1:01.38), sixth in the 200 breast (2:12.12) and 16th in the 200 IM heats before scratching the final.
Allie Raab has typically assumed breaststroke duty on Stanford’s medley relays during Bartel’s career, but with Raab racing sparsely on the weekend, Bartel raced both ‘A’ medley relays for the Cardinal and was their only scoring swimmer in the 100 breast.
Looking down the road, if Stanford has legitimate hopes of reclaiming the title, Bartel’s loss could prove costly if Raab doesn’t return to top form.
Bartel’s personal bests in her primary events—100 breast (58.72), 200 breast (2:06.24) and 200 IM (1:55.70)—were set in 2018 prior to her joining Stanford.
“This is not how I envisioned ending my time in the pool,” she said. “It’s not the fairytale ending to a perfect four years that we all dream about coming into school.
“Nonetheless, I know this is right for my wellbeing and future—as well as the future of Stanford Women’s Swim & Dive. I can’t give them the all-in commitment they deserve while also setting myself up to live a life I want, so I’ve chosen to step away.
“I can’t express my gratitude enough for (head coach) Greg (Meehan), (associate head coach) Tracy (Slusser), and my teammates for their relentless support, as well as Chris Webb and the Fort Collins community for always welcoming me with open arms no matter the circumstances.
“I honestly don’t know how I got so lucky to have been surrounded by so many incredible (and extremely patient) people. Thank you a thousand times over.”