Maggie Purcell finished her swim season in style last week.
Representing the East Hampton YMCA Hurricanes, the Southampton High School student earned Academic All-American status at the Short Course National Championships, held April 3 to 7 at the Greensboro Aquatic Center in Greensboro, North Carolina. Purcell competed in four individual events at Nationals: the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke, and the 50- and 100-yard freestyle. She had her best performances in the 100-yard breaststroke and 100-yard freestyle events.
Purcell finished as the best Class C swimmer—17th overall in the country—in the 100 breaststroke, in 1:04.05. Since she qualified for the finals and carries a GPA over 3.5, Purcell was the first Hurricanes swimmer ever to qualify for the finals at Short Course Nationals.
While she could only compete with fellow Class C participants, Purcell finished faster than two Class B swimmers and one Class A swimmer. Swimmers are classified in each class based on prior placements and times from preliminary rounds.
“Academic All-American is really a great achievement for our athletes,” East Hampton YMCA head coach Tom Cohill said. “We want them to be fast in the swimming pool and a good student in the classroom.”
Purcell initially finished the 100 free tied for 28th place with Olivia Giampietro of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. Because of two scratches in the finals, Purcell and Giampietro were pushed down to 26th and had to compete in a swim-off to decide second alternates for the finals. Purcell beat Giampietro by 0.20 of a second to become the second alternate.
It’s not common for alternates, let alone second alternates, to actually swim in the finals, but it happened for Purcell. Sitting in the stands, watching other events take place, Cohill heard the announcer call for the first alternate. She never showed up—allowing Purcell to take the spot. She finished the race in 52.05 seconds, which placed her seventh out of eight swimmers in Class C.
“That was our final team swim of the year,” Cohill said. “Maggie really put herself in position to handle it, and she was ready to race as the second alternate. She took the race pretty seriously. It was a great way to finish the season.”
Purcell was one of six Hurricanes swimmers at Nationals. East Hampton students Julia Brierley, Cecilia DeHavenon, Sophia Swanson and Maddie Jones, and Hampton Bays student Caroline Oakland all competed, either in individual events, relays, or, in some cases, both. DeHavenon is aging out of the program and is the only swimmer not returning next season, according to Cohill.