Oct 10, 2019 • By

Employee’s daughter breaks world records

Regan Smith, a 17-year-old high school swimmer from Lakeville, Minnesota, shocked the world by breaking a world record in the semifinals of the women’s 200-meter backstroke at the 2019 World Aquatics Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, in July.

And one of our employees had a front row seat to see the historic moment.


Photo: Karyn Rynda Photography

Regan’s mom, Kristi Smith, is a senior consultant for Continuous Improvement here at General Mills. She was thrilled by Regan’s big wins and says her daughter’s journey to get to this point has been a long one.

“I really respect the dedication that she’s shown and her work ethic and practice, and I’m so happy for her that it’s paying off now,” says Kristi.

The world record that Regan shattered in July was held by Missy Franklin for the past seven years. Regan went on to win the gold medal in that event, as well as set two more world records – in the women’s 400-meter medley relay during her 100-meter backstroke swim.

Thanks to Kristi, we had a chance to sit down with Regan at Riptide, the swim team that she is a part of, for this Q&A:

Q: What has life been like since breaking these world records?

A: It honestly hasn’t changed too much. I remember one of the first things that I heard like after [breaking the world records] from the coaching staff, they were like, ‘Listen like your life is going to change a little bit,’ and I think I’ve done a good job of kind of pushing that aside.

Because I got to the point of breaking those world records from being the person who I am and my life going the way it’s gone, and I don’t really want to change that. I feel like that could kind of derail what I’ve been able to do, if that makes sense. So I felt pretty normal still.


Q: How is it going, balancing your senior year in high school, with your training?

A: I’ve been swimming since third grade. And I know each school year is a bit different, with different classes and everything. But hopefully I’ve got it down by now.

And I know that at practice, I’m in the same boat as everyone else. We’re all going to school; we’re all having tough training schedules.

Q: What’s next for you?

A: I’ve never been a super strict goal-setter, that’s just never how I’ve operated. Because it’s a really popular thing to do, especially in swimming, because it’s such a time-based sport. So it’s easy for people to be like, ‘Oh, I want to get this time in this event, etc.’ But that’s never been me. I’m just always like, ‘I want to walk into this race and do the best I can.’ And then walk away knowing I tried my best.

So I guess with that mentality, I’m just going into this season excited to train hard. It’s a new season, I’m just excited to get back to training because I haven’t done that in a long time. It’s been since early July since I’ve been able to train at home, so that’s been a lot of fun. The next competition is Nationals in December. But it’s something to really look forward to and train toward.

Editor’s note: Listen to an audio clip from our interview with Regan, talking about the support from her mom.

Tate Dihel is a younger swimmer at Riptide. She’s also the daughter of a General Mills employee (Britta Dihel, on our Global Communications team). We gave Tate the chance to ask Regan a few of her own questions about life as a swimmer.


Tate: What is the hardest part about swim practice?

A: I think the hardest part is waking up in the morning for doubles. That gets hard. Especially during the winter, when the sun rises at like 8 a.m. and sets at like 5 p.m. It’s never fun, because you wake up and it’s dark, and then once you’re done with practice it’s dark. So it just feels like it’s dark all the time. And that’s hard, because it makes you so tired. That’s when you really work on your mental toughness. And I’m sure you’ll get to experience that as you get older and make your way into senior elite. It’s hard, but it makes it all worth it when you do really well at the end of the season.

Tate: Of all the meets you’ve been to, which one was your favorite? Or which one would you like to go back and redo?

A: I loved the Olympic Trials. Just because of all the energy. There are a ton of people in the stands, everyone cheering for the American team. That was really cool, but also really overwhelming, because I was 14 years old when I was there. I loved it and got really great experience out of it. To be frank, it was really kind of scary and intimidating, but I’m glad that going into next year, I have that experience in my back pocket.

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