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Canadians reach podium as NCAA championships get underway

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ATLANTA – Canadian Olympians made trips to the podium on the first two nights of the 2022 NCAA D1 Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships being held at the McAuley Aquatic Center in Atlanta.

Four-time Olympic medallist Taylor Ruck of Kelowna, B.C., won gold in the 800-yard freestyle relay with her teammates from Stanford University Wednesday. Triple Olympic medallist Maggie Mac Neil of London, Ont., competing for the University of Michigan, followed up with bronze in the 50 freestyle Thursday.

Ruck, who is studying human biology at Stanford, swam the fastest split by any swimmer Wednesday night with a 1:40.49 – the second fastest 200-yard free time of her career. Stanford took the win with a five-second victory and a total time of 6:48.30.

“I had such a blast with these relay girls and the team,” said Ruck who has been a mainstay of the Canadian relay teams at the last two Olympic Games. “I’ve had so much fun in practices with Torri (Huske), Regan (Smith), and Brooke (Forde) and know how hard they work, so seeing everything come together after night one is really gratifying. I am so grateful to have shared that win with them and am feeding off it for the rest of the meet.”

Mac Neil qualified for the 50 free final in fourth position on Thursday morning with a time of 21.53, and improved on that in the finals to finish third with a time of 21.38. Kate Douglass from the University of Virginia won gold with a national record time of 20.48, followed by her teammate Gretchen Walsh in 20.95.

“I knew it was going to be a fast race so I just wanted to work on my first 25 speed. Overall I’m super happy with the placing, but really disappointed with the time. I’m excited to see what I can do tomorrow in the 100 fly,” said Mac Neil, the reigning Olympic, NCAA, world long-course and short-course champion at that distance.

Mac Neil also raced in the 200 medley relay on Wednesday night with her Michigan teammates and finished in sixth with a time of 1:34.53. Avery Wiseman from Edmonton finished just off the podium in fourth with a time of 1:33.29 with her teammates from the University of Alabama.

Also finishing in the Top 8 in the 800 freestyle relay were Kyla Leibel of Red Deer, Alta., and Brooklyn Douthwright from Riverview, N.B. Leibel’s Texas Longhorns came fourth, while Douthwright’s University of Tennessee was eighth.

Both Mac Neil and Ruck will compete in the 100 fly on Friday, while Wiseman and Nina Kucheran of Sudbury, Ont., – representing Florida State University, will compete in the 100 breaststroke.

Watch 800 freestyle relay:

Watch 50 free:

Watch 200 medley relay:

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