The 2023 Women’s NCAA Swimming Championships is off to a bang! On the second night of the meet, two NCAA records were established, Kate Douglass in the 200 IM and Maggie Mac Neil in the 50 free. In the future, an analysis will be performed on the 200 IM, but since the 50 free is the ‘splash and dash’ it is also quicker to analyze. In the 50 free, Maggie’s so called ‘fun event’, Mac Neil has never won, despite having top finishes. In this analysis, I’ll review Maggie’s 50 yard free NCAA record and answer the question, can Maggie go faster?
For those who haven’t followed one of our analyses, these analyses are for fun and to spark debate. There are some inherent flaws in this race analysis:
- Videos are taken from YouTube videos (often with subpar angles)
- There are analyzed with Kinovea
Watch 50 Yard Free NCAA Record – 20.79 Maggie Mac Neil
50 Yard Free NCAA Record Analysis
First 15 Meters
Maggie had an excellent start, having a reaction time of 0.64 seconds and an entry of 2.97 meters. The rest of the 15-m was nearly under, as she took ~11 dolphin kicks. She broke the surface at 5.56 seconds and crossed with 15-m mark at 5.65 seconds. Her velocity over this distance was 2.65 m/s.
16.40 Yards (15-meters) – 25 Yards
Mac Neil took 8 strokes into the wall. Over this span her velocity dropped to 1.93 m/s, likely due to her taking a breath within the flags. Her distance per stroke was 1.07 meters/stroke and her stroke rate was 0.57 seconds/stroke.
First 25 Yards Analysis
With most of the lap underwater, Mac Neil used her spectacular underwater dolphin kicks to touch the wall at 10.11 seconds. This is 0.21 seconds faster than her first 25-yard split when she went her previous best time of 20.98 at 2023 SEC Championships.
25 Yards – 41.40 Yards
Maggie spent the majority of the lap underwater, surfacing in 5.9 seconds and breaking the 15-m mark after 1 stroke in 6.40 seconds. Her velocity over this distance was 2.34 meters/second.
41.40 Yards – 50 Yards
With 9 strokes, Maggie hit the wall, completing the last 8.6 yards in 4.28 seconds. Her distance per stroke over this distance was 0.96 meters/stroke and her stroke rate was 0.48 seconds/stroke. Her velocity was 2.01 meters/second over this distance.
Second 25 Yards Analysis
Mac Neil completed the second lap in 10.68 seconds, 0.02 seconds slower than at 2023 SEC Championships.
200 Yard Free NCAA Record Analysis
The 50-yard free is now a race not for the fastest above water swimmer, but underwater dolphin kick. With a new NCAA record, Maggie just showed she is the fastest dolphin kicker. She showed going nearly 15-m off each turn and having a high tempo is the ideal strategy for elite 50-yard free successes, even at 5’7″ in height (‘short’ compared to most sprint swimmers).
Theoretical Improvements for Maggie Mac Neil in the 50 Free
There is room to improve for every swimmer. Here are the notable improvements from Maggie Mac Neil’s NCAA Record:
- Maggie took one breath into the turn. This breath certainly slowed down her velocity (as we saw her velocity over the last 8.6 seconds was faster on the second 25 compared to the first). It also likely resulted in her having a slower second 25-yards compared to her race at SEC championships. If she could not take a breath into the turn (which most swimmers over this time don’t breathe) then she would likely turn at a higher velocity and not need one stroke in the first 15-m on the second 25-yards. This error likely slowed Maggie by 0.05 – 0.15 seconds.
- Maggie broke out on the turn with higher water resistance. As you can see above, some of her first stroke off the turn was against water resistance. This is likely another result of her taking a breath on the first lap, creating more drag during her first stroke on the second 25-yards. This drag likely slower Maggie 0.025 – 0.05 seconds
- Maggie took an extra stroke into the wall. As you can see above, Maggie was ‘in between’ stroke on the finish. This is likely another result of her taking the breath into the turn. Finishing on a full stroke may save her 0.05 to 0.10 seconds.
With these improvements, Mac Neil could improve another 0.125 – 0.3 seconds.
There are likely more technical improvements with her swimming stroke, but the video from the race is not close enough or provides underwater angles for a full assessment.