Maggie MacNeil Wins Record-Breaking Round 2 Showdown With Kate Douglass; Third Match Looms

Maggie MacNeil celebrates her 100 butterfly win on Friday. Photo Courtesy: NCAA Media

The rematch was even better than the debut in the three-part showdown between Michigan’s Maggie MacNeil and Virginia’s Kate Douglass at the NCAA Championships.

Arguably the top two swimmers in the NCAA, any showdown they have has the feel of a heavyweight fight. But since they entered all three of the same individual events, it has the feel of a heavyweight rivalry, like the three-part Ali-Frazier battles.

The first battle went to Douglass, who edged a late-charging MacNeil in the 50 freestyle by four hundredths of a second 21.13 – 21.17. Both swimmers now sit in the top five all-time.

“I was disappointed losing by 0.04, which is not a lot of time at all, but I did go a best time and broke the Big Ten record, so I was happy with the swim, I just didn’t have what it took I guess,” MacNeil said from her hotel in Greensboro. “It definitely made me more motivated today. It added a little more pressure because I knew this was my best shot at an NCAA title.”

And she delivered in a big way.

The second race was even more epic as MacNeil got the better in the 100 butterfly, breaking the NCAA record in the event. Her 48.89 time is the first time a woman has broken 49 seconds in the event, which has been long overdue especially after an impending dual never took place last year between MacNeil, Louise Hansson and Erika Brown last year.

“Winning an NCAA title has been my goal since freshman year and I knew it was going to be a challenge. Kate is such a great racer and competitor. I touched and I knew I had won, but it wasn’t until I looked up and saw that I had broken 49. I definitely felt the pressure tonight but was able to rely on the training that got me to under 49 seconds.”


Kate Douglass and Maggie MacNeil in the 100 fly heats. Photo Courtesy: Carlos Morales

Meanwhile, Douglass had an elite swim in 49.55, the fifth-fastest time in history.

The duo seems to bring the best out of each other in a rivalry still budding.

“This is the first time I have raced Kate Douglass in person. I guess the first time would have been at NCAAs last year. It is definitely great to race her. She has some great speed and it is really exciting to race her,” Maggie MacNeil said. “I know she definitely has the front-end speed and I want to stick with her on that. I definitely learned a lot about myself and my racing as well that I can challenge myself to go out faster and not be afraid of dying or being able to come back. That will definitely help me tomorrow and in the future as well.”

So now we turn to the rubber match, the third showdown in the 100 free on Saturday.

Who will have the knockout punch in this version of the Thrilla in Manila? The races keep getting better and the 100 free could be the best race of the trio — and decide who is the queen of the pool, and swimmer of the year in 2021.

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3 years ago

Great article but don’t write off Paige Madden for swimmer of the meet / year, she’s 2 for 2..

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