Whether it’s taekwondo, athletics or academia, Barlow’s Schweitzer stays balanced and focused

Long before becoming a state athletics champion in hurdles, long jump and heptathlon, Mariella Schweitzer practiced another sport.

She was 4 years old when she started taekwondo.

“I don’t know exactly what made me want to do it,” Schweitzer said. “I just know that as a little kid I was very active, a little mischievous too. I was a little tomboyish. I was like, ‘Martial arts are cool.’

Mariella had to decide which was the coolest.

“I have this memory of taking all these different martial arts classes,” she said. “We tried several. I don’t even think I knew what taekwondo was. I ended up connecting with the master and this type of martial arts.

There are photos from when taekwondo trophies were as big as her. No more. At 5-foot-6, Schweitzer is a third-degree black belt.

During track season at Joel Barlow High in Redding, the 17-year-old senior cuts back on her volunteer time with classes. Outside of the track and field season, she resumes training a few times a week at the world champion Tae Kwon Do in Ridgefield on form, self-defense, kicking, breaking.

“I consider it more of an art than a defense mechanism,” Schweitzer said. “It’s really beautiful if you think about it. The type of kicks, being able to whip the leg, all those crazy ways, the dynamics of the kick sets taekwondo apart.

There are only a handful of third degree black belts in his studio. For a fourth degree (Dan), she says, you have to be 18 and she thinks she should go to South Korea to take the test. If she has time at university, she will continue to take classes.

Schweitzer “absolutely” plans to incorporate martial arts into his adult life.

Let’s see. Connecticut outdoor record holder in the 300 hurdles at 43.18 seconds, third-degree black belt in taekwondo, future Ivy Leaguer at Dartmouth planning to major in biomedical engineering.

To quote Barlow’s trainer, Ryan Swift, “She’s a VERY talented young lady.”

This last indoor season has been satisfactory. Unsurprisingly, Schweitzer won all 55 hurdles (8.52) at the State Open and finished second in the 300. Yet it was his long jump, culminating with a state title and a personal best of 18-5, where she found the most improvement.

“It was an event that I had always felt I had a really bad mental block with,” Schweitzer said. “I didn’t feel like I was getting any better. This indoor season, I had a pretty big breakthrough. I’m really happy with it.

Although Schweitzer had an outside PR of 17-11.25 last year, she finished ninth at the State Open at 16-7.5. In the last indoor season, she won the SWC competition at 17-9.25, the M class at 18-4 and the State Open at 18-5. She finished second in the New England Championships with an 18-2.25 record.

Schweitzer credits Dave Lado of New Jersey.

“This indoor season, I started training in the long jump with a coach,” Schweitzer said. “When I started having this I saw a complete difference in the distance and the way I jump.”

Schweitzer started trail running in fifth grade with the Wilton Running Club. There she met Kevin Foley, who doubled as a Connecticut Elite coach.

“I’ve always seen hurdles and was really interested in that,” Schweitzer said. “My trainer told me ‘You’re young, you’re too small, you can’t get over hurdles right now.’ Every year I would ask, ‘Am I ready now?’

Finally, at the end of the seventh year, Foley said to him, “Yeah, we can try.”

“It clicked with me,” she said. “It was a natural thing. Since then the same coach has coached me and helped me improve over the years. (Foley) moved to Massachusetts and unfortunately couldn’t help me. training since December.

With no 2020 outdoor track season due to COVID, Schweitzer ran in his backyard, practiced hurdles on the patio. Technical work. Started lifting. In June, Schweitzer told our Dan Nowak that pre-COVID his goal was to break 44 seconds in the 300 hurdles by the end of his senior year. She had no idea what the state record was.

And then she nearly beat 43 as a junior to win the 2021 State Open in New Britain, where she also won the 100 hurdles in 14.52.

“Going into this outdoor season, I’m excited to possibly break 14,” Schweitzer said. “It would be amazing if I could do that.”

The state record is 14.16.

Schweitzer decided to make a foray into the CIAC heptathlon in June – a week after the State Open – and used top spots in the 100 hurdles, 200m and long jump to earn 3,974 points.

“This year I hope to do it again,” she said. “There are a few events (heptathlon also includes high jump, javelin throw, shot put and 800), I need a little more practice to master the skills, and then I feel that I can go further with this.”

Schweitzer said she looked at a variety of colleges.

“I never thought I would pick Dartmouth,” Schweitzer said. “The coach contacted me at the end of October. I made my official visit there. What really stood out to me were the people and the environment. I love the team and the coach.

“Of all the schools I visited, I felt like there was a really good balance.”

Schweitzer was under the impression that athletics would not dominate his academics and that his academics would not dominate his athletics. Maybe it’s nature. Maybe it’s nourishing. Maybe it’s taekwondo. Balance is important to Mariella Schweitzer. Eventually, she chose Dartmouth over Virginia and Georgetown.

While it’s impossible to tally the hundreds of people who competed in the indoor State Open at the Floyd Little Athletic Center on Feb. 19, I swear Schweitzer was the only one I saw competing with his mask on properly. worn over the nose and mouth. Schweitzer said her mother advocated for mask-wearing. Annette Maffei, MD, is an obstetrician-gynecologist.

“They were saying if you had your mask down you’d be disqualified, even though everyone was saying that wasn’t true,” Schweitzer said. “I just didn’t want to take the slightest risk of disqualification.

“I was also scared of all these people around, and being at the height of the season, if my mask was down, I would definitely be more at risk of being exposed to COVID or just being sick and going out for the New England. ”

Schweitzer clearly thinks about almost everything, although when asked she didn’t think much about it, but yes, the big kicks in taekwondo translate into obstacles. Her form has obviously improved over the years, but even when she started, she wasn’t just jumping over obstacles like most kids. She was doing hurdles.

“Where taekwondo has seriously helped me is in the mental aspects,” Schweitzer said. “In high school, my ability to take a loss or a major step back, I feel like I’m handling it really well. I see a lot of other people around me if they’ve done a run wrong or if they’ve badly injured, it affects them mentally.Both are mental sports, and if you don’t have the right mindset, you won’t succeed.

“I love the track, but the older I get, the more I know that I won’t be able to go over hurdles all the time. My father (Robert) does taekwondo with me. He considers it a very good form of exercise. It’s great for flexibility, for staying in shape, and for your mind too.

Schweitzer points to his board-breaking and sparring specialties to make his point.

“You’re kind of convincing your mind to let go of all fear of what’s going to happen,” Schweitzer said. “Breaking a board is more painful than you think. Usually, at the end of a routine, your feet bleed. In the moment, you need to clear your mind and just let it go. It helps me in my race. Let go and run. If I did something wrong, drop it and move on.

If Mariella Schweitzer somehow breaks an obstacle with her foot and still wins a state championship, remember, taekwondo is an art form.

[email protected]; @jeffjacobs123

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