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NCAA gold in record time for Mac Neil

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Maggie Mac Neil swam the fastest women’s 50-yard freestyle in NCAA history Thursday to win her first individual event at the NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships.

Swimming in Lane 5 as the second seed, Mac Neil had a great start and held off a final push from Virginia’s Gretchen Walsh to win in 20.79

“It feels so good. I definitely wanted to go a best time tonight. I knew Gretchen was going to put up a great race. I’m really, really pleased with that,” said the triple Olympic medallist from London, Ont. “The 50 free is kind of a fun event for me and I don’t feel a lot of pressure. I think I just went in with a clear head and was ready to see what I could do.”

Mac Neil was also part of Louisiana State’s fifth-place 200-yard free relay Thursday, turning in the fastest overall split at 20.37. Mac Neil will be looking to regain her NCAA crown in her signature 100-yard butterfly Friday as the meet continues in Knoxville, Tenn. The 2021 champion took bronze at last year’s event in Atlanta.

Friday will also see Canadians Taylor Ruck and Brooklyn Douthwright go head-to-head in a stacked 200-yard freestyle field. Four-time Olympic medallist Ruck, a Kelowna, B.C., native, is the defending champion, while Riverview, N.B., product Douthwright enters as the fastest seed fresh off her SEC title.

Ruck split 1:42.23 to help Stanford to second in the 800 free relay on the opening night Wednesday. Kyla Leibel of Red Deer, Alta., was part of a third-place effort for the Texas Longhorns. Douthwright led off for fifth-place Tennessee with a flat start time of 1:43.44.

Ruck earned her second silver of the competition Thursday as Stanford edged out Louisville by just 0.03 seconds in the 200-yard free relay.

In other Wednesday action, breaststroker Avery Wiseman of Drayton Valley, Alta., was part of Alabama’s seventh-place 200-yard medley relay.