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Megan Clark qualifies for NCAA championships

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Megan Clark qualifies for NCAA championships

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By John Hagerty, deputy sports editor

Second-year freestyler Megan Clark has qualified for the 2018 NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships, according to a Wednesday NCAA release.

Clark competed last weekend at the Last Chance Meet hosted by Ohio State University and followed up her historic CAA Championship meet with another record-breaking performance.

She posted CAA and school-record times of 22.29 seconds in the 50-yard freestyle and 48.47 seconds in the 100-yard freestyle.

Clark is the first Northeastern swimmer to ever qualify for NCAAs, which will be hosted at the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion in Columbus, Ohio on March 14-17.

The program’s most recent qualifier was diver Adela Gavozdea in 2004. The CAA has only one other qualifier this year, swimmer Alexa Kutch from Drexel University. 

“I’m really excited; it hasn’t hit me completely,” Clark said. “I’ve never been to this meet before and didn’t know it was an option for me to go. I’m really lucky that I was able to make it.”

The Last Chance Meet, where she posted the times that made the NCAA cut, differed from the team’s meets during the season because of the meet’s individual focus.

“It was a lot different, because usually college swimming is about competing as a team,” Clark said. “It was more of a race against the clock; there weren’t many people there to race. I wanted to go in, get my best time and go from there. You’re really just competing against yourself.”

Head coach Roy Coates was impressed with Clark’s focus and drive despite the mental obstacles of the meet.

“You have to fly out there by yourself with just your coach. It’s a really low-energy meet,” Coates said. “It feels like it’s empty; there’s no teammates screaming for you. It was total self-motivation on her part to be ready to get up and go faster. She did the mental part which the hardest part to do.”

Clark will swim in the 50-yard, 100-yard and 200-yard freestyle events at NCAAs. She plans to keep her preparation the same before participating in the most competitive meet in Division I swimming.

“Roy is all about keeping your racing strategy the same,” Clark said. “He doesn’t like when people go into competition and change the way that they swim. If you’re swimming a certain way the entire season, you should continue it if it’s working.”

Leading up to the NCAAs, Clark will continue practicing alongside her teammates, who have been helpful in her training.

“My teammates have been awesome,” Clark said. “Everyone knows it’s terrible to swim alone. When they can, they try to come to practice to swim with me. It’s super nice of them to come during their offseason when they’re supposed to get a break.”

Coates hopes that the momentum built from their recent program-best finish at CAAs and now Clark’s NCAA appearance will help improve the program.

“It’s huge — we have never had an NCAA championship swimmer. Hopefully it attracts people who want to be at that level,” Coates said. “We want those kinds of swimmers here and I think it drives her teammates. It’s motivating for everybody. Recruits look at that and say, ‘wow I can get to NCAAs by coming to Northeastern.’”

After tearing through the NU and CAA record books this season, Clark will get her chance to see how she fares among the nation’s best in only a couple of weeks.

“Now it’s NCAAs, that’s where Olympians go. It’ll be a lot different,” Clark said. “My nerves might hit me as I’m going on the blocks, but for right now I’m not so nervous because I feel like there’s not pressure going into this. It will be my first time there and I’ll get to see how well I can swim.”

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Megan Clark qualifies for NCAA championships