By Mike Watkins//Contributor | Friday, October 12, 2018
Just a couple of years ago, it seemed logical that if Andrew Seliskar was going to win his first National title, it would most likely be in the butterfly or individual medley.
After all, at the most recent Olympic Trials, the University of California-Berkeley senior made the finals in both the 200 fly and 200 individual medley.
And even though he had trained and raced the freestyle in preparation for the IM races and 800 freestyle relay at Cal, it wasn’t until this year’s Phillips 66 USA Swimming National Championships that Seliskar swam the 200 freestyle in a long course meet.
That move paid off huge as he won his first National title and earned a spot on this year’s Pan Pacific Championship and next summer’s World Championship teams.
“The 200 free is definitely a new event for me in long course,” said Seliskar, who won silver in the 200 free along with gold as a member of the 800 freestyle relay this summer at Pan Pacs in Tokyo. “It was an event that I had always wanted give more focus.
“Heading into 2018 Nationals, my freestyle was moving really well in training, and I felt that I had a shot to contend for that National title. (Cal coaches) Dave (Durden) and Chase (Kreitler) really helped me make improvements to my freestyle technique, and I was excited to branch out and get experience in that event.”
As evidenced by his swimming resume, one of Seliskar’s biggest strengths over his career has been his tremendous versatility.
Being proficient in all four strokes made him solid in the IM events but didn’t make him really great in any of the strokes individually.
But having the goal of always training to be the best all-around swimmer he can be, Seliskar said he feels that improvements made in different strokes/races/etc. can translate to help him become stronger in his main events.
“I always look to have a ton of variety in whatever I am doing, in and out of the pool, just to keep things fresh and exciting,” he said. “I’ve always been an IMer, but having the opportunity to train with Cal Aquatics has allowed me to get more specific with my event profile and really develop my own race strategies which I find really exciting.”
Seliskar’s start in swimming began at 5 years old at his local summer pool’s league team, the McLean Marlins.
His older brother, Stephen, was a great swimmer and role model, and he followed in his footsteps.
From the beginning, Seliskar loved to swim – having grown up spending all his summers at the beach or hanging out at the pool.
All of these years later, that hasn’t changed.
If anything, it’s just gained strength and momentum.
“I really love to be in the water, and I am a very competitive person; those two things together will keep me in the sport my entire life,” he said. “Through any ups and downs, I am always at my happiest in the water, and I love the feeling of stepping up and racing to get my hand on the wall first.
“It’s a lot of fun being a part of the Cal Aquatics program, and I really enjoy waking up every day and working with the team toward a common goal.”
In what will be remembered as the summer he found his “stroke,” Seliskar said seeing the No.1 next to his name at the conclusion of the 200 free final proved more emotional than he ever expected.
He said he was so excited he was able to step up and race at that level and that all of his friends, family and teammates were in the stands and on deck to cheer him on “pumped” him up.
He carried that through to Pan Pacs, where he held his own to finish second behind U.S. teammate and 2016 Olympian Townley Haas.
And while it was an honor to be selected, Seliskar said it proved to be a great learning experience – one that he will definitely use to his advantage moving forward.
“I tried to take in as much as I could, and watch and learn from the veterans of USA swimming as they competed,” said Seliskar, who missed Phillips 66 Nationals in 2017 due to a broken arm and rib he injured while skateboarding. “It was exciting to be able to step up and race against some of the best athletes in the world.”
Now in his final year of college, Seliskar said he is doing everything he can to enjoy and fully experience his senior swim season.
Not having won an individual NCAA title – coming close last year with second- and third-place finishes in the 200 breast and 400 IM events, respectively – he said he would love to finish with an NCAA title.
Whatever happens, he knows he will spend the next 20-plus months leading up to 2020 Olympic Trials competing at Worlds next summer in Gwangju, South Korea, and carry over his 2018 and 2019 performances into the Olympic year.
Considering it’s been a dream of his to represent the United States at the Olympics since he was little – watching the 2004 and 2008 Games and envisioning himself being there – Seliskar said he really feels like he’s got a great shot to realize that dream in 2020.
“I specifically remember watching Jason Lezak’s anchor leg on the 2008 400 freestyle relay on TV with my older brother while on a family vacation,” said Seliskar, who picked up the guitar 10 years ago and plays and practices as a way to decompress and unwind. “Watching races like that as a kid were what really inspired me to try and compete at a higher level.
“I see the coming years as a great opportunity to push myself and see how far I can take my swimming career. I have learned so much about the sport from my teammates, and I’m looking forward to continuing to learn and compete alongside them. Swimming alongside guys like Ryan Murphy, Nathan Adrian, Tom Shields, Josh Prenot, Jacob Pebley, etc. really creates an amazing environment where everyone is pushing themselves to be at their very best.”