After breaking the national high school record in the 200 IM with a 1:53.38 at the CIF State Championships earlier this month, Santa Margarita sophomore Teagan O’Dell shared the keys to her breakthrough performance while also looking ahead to her goals for the long-course season this summer.
O’Dell won the 200 IM by nearly five full seconds, taking down Torri Huske’s previous mark of 1:53.73 from 2021. It was the highlight of a huge meet that also included a 24.20 backstroke leadoff in the 200 medley relay, a personal-best 22.40 leadoff in the 200 free relay, and a meet-record 50.96 in the 100 back.
O’Dell dealt with mounting pressure throughout the week by focusing on having fun with her teammates as opposed to obsessing over her individual swims.
“The drive up on the bus is like six hours, so we spent a lot of time together playing games and just having fun,” O’Dell said. “I think really the main difference was that I didn’t focus too much on my swimming — I focused more on the team.”
O’Dell hardly reacted when she touched first in the 200 IM and saw her time under the national high school record, but she was ecstatic on the inside to have achieved a goal she had been chasing for a year.
“I don’t show it too much I guess with emotions and stuff, but it’s been a goal of mine for a year,” O’Dell said. “So I was really happy to hit it.”
The official splits showed O’Dell clocking a 26.94 on the backstroke leg, but that time is likely about half a second too quick because of a soft touch on her butterfly turn. Nonetheless, a 27-mid is still faster than every backstroke split in the 200 IM at this year’s NCAA Championships except for record-breaking winner Kate Douglass.
“I’m more IM-focused, but if we ever had to pick a stroke in a set, I would do backstroke over any other stroke,” O’Dell said. “I have been doing more sprint free, but backstroke is the priority. We have IM days like twice a week. Those are the days I feel I look forward to those practices.”
O’Dell was pleased with her backstroke split, but she quickly deflected attention to other areas where she still sees room for improvement.
“I still got to work on my fly and breast a little bit on my IM,” she said. “There’s a lot of room to improve, a lot on my turns too. I’m looking forward to seeing what I can improve on.”
Looking ahead to this summer, O’Dell said she wants to continue focusing on having fun after enduring some mental struggles last year. Her goals are to go best times in the 200 IM and 200 back because she didn’t hit lifetime bests in those events last year.
“I really want to go a best time in my 200 IM or 200 back because I didn’t hit a best time last year in those,” she said. “But I feel like this summer, mentally, I just want to go in and just have fun. Last year I feel like I got too caught up in my head and I’d just go to meets and sometimes I’d be miserable. I don’t want that to happen right now. This year I want to focus on giving it 100% effort, and that’s all I can do.”