Maggie Mac Neil, top scorer, swimmer at the SEC Championships
Maggie Mac Neil retires from college swimming and does a lot more than just win races.
On Saturday, the Canadian Olympic gold medalist delivered another star performance for Louisiana State University, helping the Tigers to a record fifth gold medal at the Southeastern Conference (SEC) championships in College Station, Texas.
Mac Neil played a key role when LSU won the 400-yard (366 meters) freestyle relay in a 100-yard (91.4 m) split of 45.26 seconds, the fastest in NCAA history , and eclipsed Simone Manuel’s 45.45 performance for Stanford at the 2015 NCAA Championships.
It was the Tigers’ second season win this week after not winning an SEC season title since 1986. With a total of eight medals, the team finished fifth, their highest since the 2014/15 season.
Mac Neil accumulated 96 points during the event, becoming the first recipient of LSU’s Commissioner’s Trophy since 1997. A native of London, Ontario, she was also named the competition’s female swimmer.
The 22-year-old and her teammates will compete in the NCAA Championships March 15-18 at the University of Tennessee. Mac Neil was a two-time NCAA champion with the Michigan Wolverines.
She joined the Baton Rouge school that season and reunited with LSU head coach Rick Bishop, her head coach for three seasons at Michigan.
On Thursday, Mac Neil became the first woman in LSU history to win three gold medals in the same SEC meeting since Lucy Findlay in 1993 in stage two for the winning relay team of 200 free (183 m) and 50 (45.7 m) free.
3 gold at short course championships
MacNeil’s time of 48.99 seconds in flight not only broke the school record by nearly three seconds, but also broke the Meet and Facility marks.
Two months ago, on the final day of the Short Course World Championships in Australia, the Canadian swam to her second world record and third gold medal.
Melbourne set her records in the 100m butterfly final (54.05) and 50 backstroke (25.25) when Mac Neil scooped the Best Swimmer award for two fly golds, three relay bronzes and individual golds in her 50th – took backstroke home with me.
CLOCK | Mac Neil Takes 3rd Gold at Short Course Worlds:
She chose not to compete individually at the World Championships last summer in Budapest, Hungary, citing fear and pressure to succeed that made it difficult to compete.
“I always thought I was invincible. I was perfectly normal and okay in high school and most colleges. But I think this year has been a bit more difficult for me,” Mac Neil told CBC Sports’ Devin Heroux at Canadian Swimming Trials in Victoria last April.
“I encountered some post-Olympic fights and it was really challenging. That was a really big challenge for me.”
For several years, Mac Neil had won just about everything in swimming, but the pressure to excel at every competition was becoming too much.
CLOCK | Mac Neil Wins Canada’s 1st Gold at the Tokyo Olympics:
“I try to keep my cool and not let my emotions get too high or too low,” she said. “But I think sometimes my nerves get the better of me and I get very quiet and reserved and overthink things.”
She returned to individual competition at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England last July, where she won five medals (gold, two silver, two bronze).
In her 2020 Olympic debut, Mac Neil won a medal of all colors, including gold in her special event, the 100th Butterfly. Four times gold and one silver followed at the short course swimming world championships in Abu Dhabi in 2021.
Mac Neil was named Swimming Canada’s Swimmer of the Year and Best Female Athlete at the Tokyo Games by the Association of National Olympic Committees.