There are very few ways to better finish a collegiate career than being named an All-American.
And even fewer than earning the honor twice.
Senior Brendan McHugh capped his Quakers career in Seattle this weekend with two 14th place finishes in the 100 and 200 breaststrokes at the NCAA swimming championships, earning honorable mention All-American nods. He also placed 39th in the 200 individual medley with a personal best time of 1:47.57.
McHugh’s times in the breaststroke events, 53.03 and 1:55.82, were personal bests and school records.
“I didn’t go quite as fast as I wanted,” McHugh said, “but I’m still really happy.”
While McHugh’s finish was the best NCAA performance in program history, he could not outswim Princeton’s Jonathan Christensen, who currently holds the Ivy League breaststroke records. Christenson won the consolation final of the 100 breast and finished seventh in the 200.
McHugh said not beating Christensen “bothered me, but it wasn’t the end of the world. “I can only control what I do.”
And though McHugh did not reach his ultimate goal of winning, he was happy with his poise throughout the meet, as most first-time NCAA competitors do not swim well under the pressure of the national stage and generally struggle to make it to the top 16 for a night swim.
“To go there and duplicate your times and make it [to finals] is a lot harder than you might think it would be,” assistant coach Dan Schupsky said.
McHugh, however, swam in the finals of two events and said head coaches from Texas and Georgia both approached him to say how rare the accomplishment was.
“I was happy with myself that I didn’t choke,” he said.
However, missing the top eight and a chance to compete for gold in Friday night’s ‘A’ finals by .08 seconds was disappointing.
Schupsky said McHugh may have been “a little bit tense” before the swim. “That’s a little tiny tiny tiny disappointment in a fantastic list of accomplishments,” Schupsky said.
While the senior finished in the same place in both breaststroke events, he said his best night was Saturday, the final session of the meet.
“Cracking from 1:56 to 1:55 [in the 200 breast], even though it’s only two or three tenths, it still feels a lot faster, McHugh said. “I was definitely happiest about [that event].”
McHugh leaves Penn having rewritten the record books — he has six individual and four relay school records — and is excited to move on to training for Olympic Trials in June.
“This weekend gave me confidence moving forward,” he said. “A lot of confidence.”