Maggie MacNeil Aims to Keep Freshman Phenom Season Going at NCAAs

The University of Michigan women's swimming and diving team compete on the third day of the 2019 Big Ten Women's Swimming and Diving Championships. Bloomington, IN, Feb. 22, 2019
Photo Courtesy: Walt Middleton Photography 2019

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It isn’t surprising that a freshman from Canada has become one of the fastest swimmers in the NCAA.

After all, Stanford’s Taylor Ruck was an Olympian and Pan Pacific champion before starting college.

But Ruck isn’t the only freshman phenom from Canada tearing up the NCAA lanes. Michigan’s Maggie MacNeil has proved to be at Ruck’s level and is turning heads at every meet.

The London, Ontario, native was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year after winning two individual titles (50-yard freestyle, 100-yard butterfly), finishing runner-up in her third event (100-yard backstroke) and contributing to two relay wins (200-yard freestyle relay, 400-yard freestyle relay).

That first Big Ten meet was eye-opening for MacNeil.

“It was an incredible experience. Everyone told me the atmosphere was the best there is and I didn’t believe them until we got there,” MacNeil told Swimming World. “We didn’t accomplish our goal, but it will be great to finish the year off on a high note at NCAAs.”

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Photo Courtesy: Walt Middleton

After three consecutive Big Ten titles, the Wolverines finished behind Indiana, something that will have them motivated heading into NCAAs.

MacNeil will be pivotal. She will be seeded second in the 100 butterfly (49.59), third in the 100 back (50.50) and seventh in the 50 free (21.65).

Not bad for someone adjusting to short-course yards after swimming mostly meters in Canada.

“It was so easy to adjust thanks to the coaches and the team. It is super close to where I live, so I could always go home or my family could come down,” she said. “It has been good. I love swimming short-course yards. It is definitely different than swimming in Canada. I had always been better in short-course meters because of my underwaters.”

She was not expecting to be this big of a factor right away.

“I think it was definitely a shock. I really enjoyed the dual meets, especially travel dual meets. I love competing,” she said. “The biggest difference has been the weight training. I did it a little bit in London, but I stopped for a bit. It was good to get back to that and push each other in the weight room.

My underwaters. It was strong coming into the year, but I am always reminded to push.”

MacNeil’s versatility allows her to compete in four relays and split up the points individually with other top swimmers.

“I think versatility is really important as an athlete. It is really good to show that the training is paying off,” she said. “I want to have fun and go at it with a positive attitude. I am not going to expect anything particular. It will be unlike any meet I have ever been to.”

Check out more Big Ten coverage here.

The University of Michigan women's swimming and diving team compete on the third day of the 2019 Big Ten Women's Swimming and Diving Championships. Bloomington, IN, Feb. 22, 2019

Photo Courtesy:Walt Middleton