Born On: August 16, 1990
Hometown: Warner Robins, GA
Resides in: Charlotte, NC
Education: Florida State University '13; Major: Sports Management
Height: 6' 3"
If you find yourself at a Fitter & Faster clinic led by Mark Weber, be prepared to focus on the little things.
“I made it to where I am today by being very meticulous about the details of my swimming,” says the Florida State standout and ACC champion sprinter, “and I enjoy passing that knowledge along to younger swimmers.” In addition to helping young athletes take their freestyle and butterfly to the next level, Weber watches their every start and turn like a hawk.
Thanks to his swim instructor grandmother, Weber learned to swim almost before he could walk. As the son of a NCAA All-American, he also had genetics working in his favor. “I always knew swimming was in my genes and it was something I loved to do. I knew from my first summer season in sixth grade that I had a natural ability in the water and when I was able to make the age group championship that first summer I knew I had an opportunity to be pretty good.”
But he was a latecomer to serious swimming — he didn’t start training year-round until he was 17. He remembers watching the 2008 Olympics while he was still a newbie and discovering his first swimming hero. But it wasn’t Michael Phelps. No, it was Jason Lezak. “He ran down Alain Bernard in the 400 freestyle relay at the Olympics to lock in the Americans for gold and keep Phelps in the running for his eight golds. I didn’t know many of the big name swimmers at the time but I have always loved the pressure of anchoring relays and that swim inspired me for years to come (and still does).”
He came into the sport without the aerobic base that many of his peers had established through years of training. But there was one place he could make an immediate impact: the sprint freestyle events. “I was able to compete in the shorter events and my coaches always let me swim the sprint events.”
Weber didn’t really think Division I swimming was in the cards. “I wasn’t fast enough to swim in college until March of my senior year of high school (winter sectionals) which is really late in the recruiting game.”
He’d already been accepted to Florida State academically and luckily, when he experienced his breakthrough swims, there were still a few open slots on the team roster. “So Florida State chose me, really. “I was raw and very new to the sport and I will be forever grateful to the staff at FSU (Neil Harper, Andy Robins, and Gary Taylor) for giving me a chance to live my dream as an NCAA student-athlete.“
But it wasn’t smooth sailing at first; in fact, it was “terrifying,” he recalls. I remember calling my Dad the first week of training and worrying (almost crying) that I wasn’t good enough because I couldn’t even keep up in warm-up. That first year was a rude awakening to the world of serious training but I made it through and continued to improve.”
Weber eventually repaid his FSU coaches for their faith in him senior year by winning the 50 free at the ACC conference championships as a senior. And while he says that race was the highlight of his career so far, his favorite memory is battling to help his team win the 400 freestyle relay a year prior.
“I was our anchor and had swam a disappointing individual 100 earlier that night,” recalls. “When I stepped on the blocks to anchor the relay, we were slightly behind North Carolina, who were right next to us. I swam an insane split (42.2, which was 1.5 seconds faster than my best individual 100) and brought home the win. That was a very special race for my relay teammates and I and I will remember that feeling of celebration with them afterwards forever.”
Weber experienced another first in 2012, when he competed in his first Olympic Trials. “It was an exhilarating but intimidating experience. I had only been to Nationals once before so I was still new to swimming on a big stage. The big crowds, the show, and the processes just to get to the blocks was a lot to take in.
I swam right at my best times in both the 50 and 100 frees but I didn’t improve. I learned that on big stages like that, planning is essential to being successful.” He plans to implement those lessons at the 2016 Trials.
Weber’s outlook on swimming — that of a relative newcomer, combined with his technical focus — make him an ideal clinician for age-groupers 13 and up. But no matter the age of his audiences, his core message remains the same:
“Have fun! You’re never too old to love swimming. Set goals and pursue your dreams. Hard work and dedication can take you to amazing places.”