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Thursday March 20, 2014 Beisel to cap decorated Gators career at NCAA Championships

Updated: 9:12am, March 20

Gators Alicia Mathieu, Hilda Luthersdottir and head coach Gregg Troy discuss the NCAA Finals.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The final lap is in clear sight.

Gators senior Elizabeth Beisel, a two-time Olympian and one of the most decorated swimmers in UF history, is in Minneapolis this week with her teammates for the NCAA Championships.

The final collegiate meet of Beisel's record-breaking career is here, and the vivacious swimmer from Kingstown, R.I., has mixed emotions.

She is excited. She is nervous. She is a little sad.

Most of all, Beisel is content.

Elizabeth Beisel

"I definitely want to win the 400 IM,'' she said Wednesday. "I won it last year so winning it back-to-back would be pretty cool. I think about this sometimes: I'm going to walk away from this meet, even if it's the most horrible meet I have ever had in my career, I'm still walking away from my collegiate career with so many great memories and accolades.

"I can't really put all the pressure of ending my career on just one meet. It's been a great four years. I'm not going to let just one meet sour it if it's not the best meet of my life."

Beisel has won two NCAA titles -- her first was the 200 backstroke in 2012 -- and won two medals at the London Games in 2012, bringing home a bronze in the 200 back and silver in the 400 IM.

Over the past four years Beisel has been a dominant force in SEC pools, claiming nine conference titles, tied with former UF great Dara Torres in the school record books.

The way Beisel has done it is equally impressive. While basketball players Patric Young and Will Yeguete have received a lot of attention for serving as great ambassadors for the UF athletic department during their careers, Beisel has done the same.

The outgoing Beisel has never met a stranger, fast with a smile and hello, which is not always the case with elite-level athletes, and make no mistake, that's what Beisel is.

She is one of the best in the world at what she does.

Her best event -- the 400 IM -- is considered perhaps the most challenging individual event in swimming.

The event consists of 100 meters each of the butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle. Beisel has the second-fastest 400 IM time in U.S. history.

She said the greatest lesson she has learned at UF under head coach Gregg Troy is how to listen to her body and manage her training.

In the past she did what her coaches told her and let her natural talent do the rest. The freedom at college forced her to develop a disciplined training approach that can include six hours in the pool on some days.

Elizabeth Beisel

"I've just learned a lot about myself and what I need to do in order to be the best that I need to be,'' Beisel said. "I had always wanted to go pro. That's the little-girl dream. You want to be in the commercials for Speedo and make all the money and that stuff.

"Then you grow up and realize that's probably not going to happen unless you are Michael Phelps. In high school I knew I was going to go the college route, and honestly, it's the best decision I ever made."

Once the Gators' stay in Minneapolis ends, Beisel will officially turn pro and turn her attention to the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. She has no plans to leave Gainesville after her UF career is over.

"It's the best place on earth to train,'' she said. "I train with the best coach in the world and the best swimmers in the world. I don't see what I would change. The people I train with at UF are my family now."

At 21 -- Beisel doesn't turn 22 until August -- a third Olympics is her top priority following this week's NCAA Finals.

She has a bronze and silver, so a gold would be a nice addition to her collection of medals. And then she will listen to her body and decide if another shot at the Olympics is in her future or if the sport will become a way to stay in shape like the rest of us.

"Depending on how I do at 2016 -- hopefully I'll make it -- if I'm still swimming really well, I'll keep swimming past 2016 and if I feel like I'm ready to be done, I'll just retire after that,'' she said. "If I can get at least one more Olympics out of my swimming career I will be satisfied."

Whatever the future holds, Beisel's place in UF swimming history is secure. Simply put: she's one of the best female swimmers to ever step on campus.

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