BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Saint Michael's College women's swimming & diving senior Lindsay McNall (Colchester, Vt./Colchester) completed the first appearance by a Purple Knight swimmer at an NCAA Championship on Saturday with a 21st-place finish in the 200-yard backstroke trials in the Birmingham CrossPlex.
McNall was the first swimmer in College history to be selected for an NCAA Championship, with this year's event part of the NCAA Division II National Championships Festival being hosted by the University of Alabama in Huntsville and the City of Birmingham. She was the only woman and the only swimmer from the Northeast-10 Conference at the meet, joining a male diver from Southern Connecticut State University.
McNall entered the day seeded 14th out of 33 competitors at 2:00.03, an NE10 Championship and school record she set on Feb. 19. The time is also believed to be third in the history of the league. Swimming from Lane 2 during the fourth of five heats in the morning trials, McNall touched the wall in 2:02.44, good for fifth in her eight-woman heat, but 1.33 seconds short of the 16th-place finisher. The top 16 from each event advance to the evening session, where they score team points. She held off a counterpart from Truman State (Mo.) University by 0.09 seconds and was within 0.51 ticks of the 18th-place competitor from Simon Fraser (British Columbia) University.
With her appearance at the NCAA Championship, McNall capped a career that saw her not only become the first Purple Knight swimmer to compete at the national meet, but she is the only All-America qualifier in her program's history after taking 15th during the 100 back on Friday evening. A winner of 102 races during her career, McNall was NE10 All-Conference five times, including as the two-time champion in the 100 back and 2017 winner of the 200 back. While competing twice at the New England Intercollegiate Swimming & Diving Association (NEISDA) Championship, she also won the 100 back twice and the 200 back once at that meet.
Saint Michael's placed 40th out of 40 schools that scored points, with McNall's two points earned on Friday accounting for the first points a Purple Knight has ever earned at the championship. It had been 31 years since a member of a Saint Michael's swimming & diving program qualified for an NCAA meet, as diver Sue Judge '86 was chosen in 1983 and 1986 after fellow diver Luke Dougherty '84 also was picked during his senior year, in 1984.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
Senior Lindsay McNall
It definitely wasn't the race I was hoping to have this morning, obviously. I think I was a lot more tired than I had realized. It's been a really long week just being myself and Eileen, and I missed my teammates. It's been physically and emotionally taxing. It's still the third-fastest time I've ever gone. NE10s, the finals race was my fastest ever, and the prelims was my second fastest ever.
Both my mom and dad and and my grandmother flew in on Thursday to be here, which has been awesome, I'm super thankful to have them here. They've been at every session that I've raced at, and Thursday they flew in pretty early, and I got lunch with them, and kind of had them get acclimated to the loud atmosphere [at the CrossPlex].
I have to remind myself every time I'm there that these are the best D2 swimming athletes in the entire country. It's not just our tiny conference or a part of New England, it's the entire U.S. [and Simon Fraser of British Columbia], which is really cool. They're the best in their conferences, too, so now it's the best of the best together. I want to go back to finals tonight even though I'm not racing. They're just so fast, and watching them so you can see why they're so fast - underwaters, stroke techniques - you just learn a lot from it, and I'm in awe of what these kids are doing.
This is attainable for anyone on [our] team. If they decided that's what they want and they put the work in, they can do it. It's not like it's the Olympics or world championships. Me being here and being the first one to do it means anyone can do it. Leaving that as my impression on the team feels really good, making it better in a way for years to come.