So Much For That: Maggie MacNeil and LSU Women Hit NCAA “A” Relay Standard

ART ADAMSON INVITATIONAL

When Olympic gold medalist Maggie MacNeil committed to swim her 5th season of eligibility at LSU, reunited with her former Michigan coach Rick Bishop, the hoi polloi around the pool didn’t give the Tigers much chance of capitalizing big on her presence.

Much of the conversation has been around what MacNeil, one of the fastest NCAA swimmers in history, could do in a situation where she wasn’t burdened by the extra swims of relays – much as we saw from her now-teammate Brooks Curry, who pulled off surprise NCAA titles last year in the 50 and 100 yard freestyles last season.

Big oops.

On day 1 of the Art Adamson Invitational, the LSU women roared to a 1:27.63 in the 200 free relay. That put them just behind the vaunted sprint groups from USC (1:27.38) and Alabama (1:27.56) – the latter of which return all four legs from an NCAA runner-up finish last season.

The NCAA “A” cut in the event is 1:28.43, which means the Tigers are now easily qualified for the NCAA Championships in that relay, and likely many more.

The LSU Relay:

To be fair, the expectations of no LSU relays at the NCAA Championships weren’t totally without merit. They graduated the fastest leg of a 10th-place relay from last year’s SEC Championships Natalie Kucsan.

But the LSU women were not devoid of talent. Among those returning, Peyton Curry is the younger sister of the aforementioned NCAA Champion.

“Since I arrived in Baton Rouge, we have had a solid group of women swimmers,” Bishop told SwimSwam. “Maggie has brought a spark that has ignited a greater belief in what the women are capable of achieving.”

The “A” cut means that they can now send any other relays that get at least a “B” standard to the NCAA Championships. That includes, so far, the 400 medley relay, which was 3:33.47 later in the session (the B cut is 3:33.54).

These will be the first LSU relays at the NCAA Championships since 2016.

We can’t pretend like Maggie MacNeil, swimming one of the fastest splits in history, isn’t the difference-maker here. A 1.7-second gap on replacement is no small thing in a 200 yard relay, but we also should have been able to do the math to expect that – she and Bishop work well together, and we know that.

And what’s scary is that this LSU 200 free relay still probably has room to drop. Curry was two-tenths better than she was at SECs, but Milutinovich was a touch slower on the leadoff leg than she was at SECs.

“Both our A and B 4 x 50 relays were great,” Bishop continued – the B was 8th in 1:31.05, including splits of 22.52 and 22.47. “I think that the second half of the season we will see continual improvement in those relays.”

This is a huge lurch forward for Bishop in his rebuilding process of LSU. This means the team could have 7 or 8 swimmers at the NCAA Championships. They’ll be on “the lists” that SwimSwam publishes about teams with lots of qualifiers, and lots of qualified relays. Their relays will be in the fast heat at the SEC Championships. All of that results in visibility to recruits, and evidence that what’s happening is working.

Bishop can coach speed, we know that, and speed is a great way to re-foundation a program.

I was as excited as everyone else to see a three-event Maggie MacNeil at the NCAA Championships, especially given the loaded fields she would be facing in those events (Kate Douglass, Gretchen Walsh, Katharine Berkoff, etc.). But that’s Olympics, and this is the NCAA.

MacNeil already has a rock-solid NCAA legacy in the pool. This relay contribution at LSU will make that legacy into legend.

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False Start
16 days ago

shouldn’t a -.36 reaction be disqualified?

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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