As soon as she jumped into the pool freshmen year, Colchester native Lindsay McNall was breaking records at St. Michael’s College — in the same pool she’s been swimming in since she began her career at 6 years old. Last Sunday, she became the first Purple Knight to reach 100 wins.
“I’ve pretty much grown up swimming in this pool,” the senior swimmer said. “Hundreds of thousands of laps.”
She notched a majority of these laps after joining the college’s swim team. As a Colchester High School senior, she took the year off from swimming: She wasn’t sure if collegiate competition was in her future.
Schools in North Carolina and Florida were tempting, she said, but she soon realized she missed her safe place. St. Michael’s was where she wanted to be, and she doesn’t think she could’ve made a better choice.
“It’s led me to opportunities I don’t think I would have had otherwise,” she said. “If I hadn’t been an athlete in college, I would be a different person, probably with different goals and aspirations.”
McNall’s new No. 1 goal is qualifying for the NCAA championships in March. She’d be the first in the college’s history.
Getting there, though, wouldn’t be possible without her teammates, she said. Instilled in her at a young age, teamwork is something McNall values to its core. Though she’s excited about her 100 wins, she’s more excited about having shared 34 of those with 17 of her teammates in relay races over her four years.
McNall admits breaking records is fun, but she puts it a bit more simply: “I like going as fast as I possibly can,” she said.
She likes racing for the sake of racing, she explained. The people in the lanes next to her, whether teammates or opponents, push her to be better and swim faster.
If she didn’t have her teammates in the lanes beside her during practice or cheering her on during meets, she said she wouldn’t be nearly as motivated as she is.
Also rooting her on is head coach Eileen Hall. The sixth-season Purple Knight coach began instructing McNall as a Green Mountain Aquatics club swimmer in sixth or seventh grade.
Over the years, the pair’s coach-athlete relationship has grown immensely. It got off to a rocky start though, Hall joked, when she left McNall, her neighbor, at swim practice one night.
The two have since developed a deep sense of trust — one that’s not always present with her other athletes, Hall noted.
Their honesty and ability to communicate in and out of the pool aids in McNall’s success, the two agreed.
“To see her grow up and to see her turn in to the person she is now, who would never cry in the face of a race, who would never be intimidated by an opponent, who would never step down from any hard practice, has probably been the best coaching experience of my life, without a doubt,” Hall said.
Win or lose, McNall has a strong fan base in the Ross Sports Center pool. With both of her parents born and raised in Vermont, most of her family is fairly close by. Her parents have attended every home meet and most away contests, McNall said. During her senior meet, the McNall clan comprised about a third of the crowd, she said.
Tears welling in her eyes, McNall said before every home race, she looks up to the viewing area and sees her mom, dad and grandma looking down. No matter how she places, she knows they support her.
On the pool deck, Hall said McNall trains like a national level athlete. Everybody has talent, Hall said, but McNall stands out for her ability to recognize that talent and work with it.
Back in middle school, Hall said McNall wasn’t the most standout swimmer. She was fast and reached some of the highest levels on her club team, but when she got to college, something changed.
“She made a decision to train like somebody who wanted to be the best, who wanted the records, who wanted to go to nationals, who wanted to really take pride in what she was doing,” Hall said. “So it took what she already did well and just amplified it, and that’s hard, that’s taken a four-year commitment.”
Consistently earning one of the highest GPAs on the team, McNall is committed both in and out of the pool.
Come February 16, the Purple Knights begin the four-day Northeast-10 conference championships. McNall’s determined to make sure her career doesn’t end there.
“That’s really all it comes down to,” she said. “If I want it badly enough, then I’ll make the right choices to get there.”
Win or lose, the Colchester native sees a bittersweet ending to her college career. If she makes it, she’ll be completely satisfied with her journey. Either way though, she said she needs some time away from the pool to recover from four years of endless hard work.
McNall is looking forward to getting back to basics: Swimming off the back of her parent’s boat.
But first, she has a couple more races to go in the pool, a place she considers her safe haven, where everything else becomes nonexistent.
“I’m just focusing on that one stroke where my arm is, that one kick at that one particular time, and I’m just able to not have to think about anything else,” she said.