MacLean hopes NCAA performance transfers to Trials

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VICTORIA – Brittany MacLean is heading into the Canadian Swimming Trials on a high note.

After a frustrating 2013 in which injuries slowed the promising young swimmer, MacLean capped her second NCAA season with a pair of wins.

The 20-year-old from Etobicoke, Ont., won the 1,650- and 500-yard freestyle events at the recent Division I Women’s Championships in Minneapolis, setting three NCAA records in the process.

At the conclusion of the meet she was named Swimmer of the Year by the College Swimming Coaches Association of America, ahead of such well-known stars as American Missy Franklin, whom she beat in the 500. Her efforts contributed to a team championship for the University of Georgia Bulldogs.

“It was pretty much the perfect ending to a great weekend of racing for myself and the rest of my team,” MacLean said. “A team national championship is a special accomplishment that I’m sure many athletes will tell you means more to them than any individual title.”

Speaking of greater accomplishments, MacLean is now turning her focus to returning to the international stage. She represented Canada at the Summer Universiade and FINA World Championships last year, swimming the 4×200-m freestyle relay at worlds in Barcelona after winning two relay medals and making two individual finals at the world university games in Kazan, Russia. This year it’s spots in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, in July and the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships in Gold Coast, Australia, in August.

MacLean hopes she’s back on the track that saw her named Swimming Canada’s Junior Swimmer of the Year for 2012. In her Olympic debut, MacLean emerged as a potential future star by advancing to the finals in the 400-m freestyle, where she finished seventh. She says she’s not setting any specific goals for the summer, not looking any further than the 200-, 400- and 800-metre freestyle at Trials.

“Honestly this year’s focus has just been on getting healthy and seeing what I can do,” she said. “I really don’t know what I’m capable of yet.”

Fast times swimming short-course yards don’t always translate to success in the 50-m pool in which international glory is decided. But MacLean has done some long-course training at Georgia and is hoping to continue her momentum when she hits the water in Victoria.

“It might be a bit weird the first time I dive in,” she said. “I haven’t touched long-course water in a race in a while so it might feel a little bit long my first race.”

Although she’s far from home as a Bulldog, her heart remains in Canada.

“I was incredibly touched with all of the support I received from the Swimming Canada community. It means so much to know my friends and family back home are following me and always cheering me on,” MacLean said.

“I’ve always said that if I was able to inspire at least one person, then everything I’ve done would be worth it.”

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