Olivia Carter, Maggie MacNeil Give Michigan Butterfly Sweep With ‘Swims of a Lifetime’

Olivia Carter. Photo Courtesy: Mike Comer/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Olivia Carter didn’t want her goal to be public knowledge.

The Michigan junior is a little superstitious, but also wanted to bottle up all of that energy and unleash it during her best event.

But her goal, which she shared with Swimming World before the meet, was to win the 200 butterfly at NCAAs — which she did in dominating fashion. She touched the wall, looked up and launched herself out of the water in sheer jubilation.

“It was everything that I had hoped for. I have visualized this race to death,” Carter said from her hotel room. “It was on my mind the entire meet. As I touched the wall, the first thing I did was smile. I knew I did it. It was all adrenaline at that point. It was fantastic and so satisfying. To have everything come together like it did is something really special.”

Carter won the 200 butterfly in 1:51.33, behind a stellar second-half surge in the race.


Olivia Carter. Photo Courtesy: NCAA Media

“I swam in the A final in 2019 and I was a freshman and Ella Eastin and Louise Hansson were the top two that year. I have always looked up to Ella. I always knew I wanted to be an NCAA champion like her,” Olivia Carter said. “I got good cards this year and was able to have the swim of a lifetime. I am really happy with how I swam, how I paced it and really how it felt. I am really happy to finally be able to check that goal off my list.”

It was a goal that her teammate Maggie MacNeil got to cross off her list Friday after winning the 100 butterfly in an NCAA record 48.89. She also won the 100 free on Saturday.

“We definitely have a really strong core group of butteflyers and we wanted to represent them well. Olivia has helped me a lot, and I think with this momentum, we can hopefully bring a couple more on board and see what we can do next year,” MacNeil said from her hotel room in Greensboro.

Carter was in the “A” final in that race, too, but wasn’t focused on herself in that moment.

“I didn’t even know what I went in that race. I was purely focused on Maggie’s race. I just wanted her to have the race of a lifetime, and she did,” Carter said. “That was a confidence booster for me though.”

MacNeil felt the same way watching Carter’s 200 fly.


Olivia Carter & Maggie MacNeil embrace after the 100 fly. Photo Courtesy: NCAA Media

“It was incredible. She definitely scared me the first 100, hanging back like that, but I knew her strategy. When we were recruiting her, we were sitting in Rick (Bishop’s) office. He had his Big Ten championship ring on the table and I told her if she came here, we could get one of these together,” MacNeil said. “Although we didn’t win as a team, it really did feel like we worked together to get those (championships) tonight.”

Olivia Carter was third at the 100 mark but then reached another level to pass the field and win by a second and a half, more than a body length ahead.

“It is kind of exciting to stay behind a little bit and surge in the back half. I always found a lot of enjoyment,” she told Swimming World before the meet. “Recently I have figured out how to take it out with the field and still hang on. But it is harder to make a more drastic move.”

But Carter’s move was very drastic.

“I have always been a back-halfer. The third 50 is such a sweet spot. I can go out easy and then really nail the third 50. I have been training a lot with Maggie and she has really been helping me with my easy speed,” Carter said. “I just rely on the very long base training to become a back-halfer. I tried to log in a really good underwater and I knew I wanted to win. That is where you need to make the move to win, and I was able to execute that really well.”

Even more special was the fact that Carter was able to win in her home pool. She grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina, but then moved to Greensboro, where the meet was held this year.

“It is absolutely amazing to win in my home pool. It is definitely a dream come true. I wish there could be a home crowd for me to celebrate with but it felt like I was right at home,” she said. “I think that contributed a lot to how relaxed I was. I have a lot of great memories here. I am so happy to be a national champion in my home pool. I am really going to hold on to this because it is really special to me.”

It has been a long journey to this title for Carter.

Three years ago, she was a freshman SEC champion in the event at Georgia before transferring to Michigan. She was the Big Ten champion last year and ready to unleash a title challenge before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

One year later, she was where she hoped to be — the top of the podium.

“A butterfly sweep is not too shabby,” Olivia Carter said. “It is only going to get better from here.”

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