Olympic-sized dreams: Lewton’s participation in U.S. Open keeps her career swimming forward

Abby Lewton

Sheridan Swim Team member Abby Lewton, a 14-year-old freshman at Hannibal High School, recently competed in the U.S. Open in Greensboro, N.C. | Photo courtesy Mathew Kirby

QUINCY — Abby Lewton’s daily routine isn’t terribly different from the average high school student-athlete anywhere across the country.

Wake up. Go to school. Maybe steal a few minutes for homework or hanging with friends. Go to practice. Finish up homework. Call it a night.

The next day, do it all over again.

The difference for the 14-year-old Hannibal freshman is where that routine has taken her already and where it may eventually lead, which could be the world’s stage. 

Lewton, who swims for the Sheridan Swim Team, recently competed in the Toyota U.S. Open at the Greensboro Aquatic Center in Greensboro, N.C., which brought the nation’s best swimmers and Olympic hopefuls together for a four-day elite meet.

“It was really awesome, just the experience overall,” said Lewton, who qualified for the event in the 100-meter backstroke in what could be the first step toward becoming an Olympic swimmer. “Just seeing the other swimmers swim and just being able to swim there.”

It put her on the deck and in the pool with some highly recognizable names.

Katie Ledecky, a seven-time Olympic gold medalist and owner of two current world records, competed ahead of Lewton, which meant they shared a lane for warm-ups and cool downs. There were other Olympic swimmers in the field as well.

“I didn’t get to meet them, but I got to see them swim,” Lewton said.

It contributed to what Lewton described as “an experience of a lifetime.”

She didn’t qualify for the finals, swimming 1 minute, 5.02 seconds in her preliminary heat, but the motivation and confidence that comes from being on the national stage should serve Lewton well.

“I think going to a meet like this, where she didn’t have her best time, it really motivated her to get better,” Sheridan coach Thomas Gerek said. “She sees what everybody else is doing. And now she set a new goal for herself to go and beat these kids and be the best in the state again.”

Regan Smith, a 20-year-old from Minnesota who owns the U.S. record in the 100 backstroke, set a championship event record by winning the event in 57.95 seconds.

Lewton qualified for the Open by eclipsing a standard qualifying time, which she did last July during the Illinois state meet by swimming a time of 1:03.88.

According to Gerek, that performance catapulted Lewton to a whole new level.

“It’s opened doors that most kids will never get,” he said. “And I think she probably has her pick of any college scholarship-wise, at this point, assuming she keeps progressing and getting better.”

It will require more weight lifting, more practicing and more attention to details, such as her nutrition and her rest. Lewton admits it’s a lot to tackle.

“It’s kind of like a life-style thing,” she said.

But it can’t overtake her life.

“Working out life balance is important to where it’s not all swim every day because that can burn you out really quick,” Gerek said.

That balance could help Lewton reach her goal of becoming an Olympic swimmer.

“Coaching someone with her talent level, it’s just pretty miraculous,” Gerek says. “She’s the perfect swimmer. I think she wants to be the best. Mentally she has that focus. That’s the type of swimmer that Abby’s been since I’ve been here, and I don’t see it stopping. It’s just something that not every athlete has, you know? It’s pretty special.”

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