PHILADELPHIA - For senior Brendan McHugh, call it delayed gratification. The two-time Ivy League champion breaststroke specialist fell to third in the 100 breaststroke and fourth in the 200 breaststroke at last weekend's Ivy League Championships, but those performances came with a purpose. While others were at their peak, poised to knock him off in his final go-round against Ivy competition, the native of Sicklerville, N.J. had a bigger picture in mind. That's because beginning on March 22, McHugh will be in Seattle competing for a national title at the 2012 NCAA Championships.
In December, both the men's and women's swimming teams traveled to Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio to take part in the Total Performance Invitational. It was there that McHugh smashed his previous school record in the 100 breaststroke - a time that won him an Ivy title in 2011 - by more than six-tenths of a second. At the time it was a top-five performance in the country, and while other individuals have surpassed his 53.04 in the months since, McHugh has continued to rack up wins with his eyes on a much bigger prize.
Now sitting 13th in the nation for the 100 breaststroke and 19th in the 200 breaststroke (1:56.16, also achieved at the Total Performance Invitational) during the 2011-12 season, McHugh took a different approach to training for the Ivy Championships than in years past. While the standard operating procedure would be to shave and taper in the days and even weeks leading up to such an important meet, McHugh continued a full training regimen almost all the way up to the event. Though his times suffered last weekend because of it, the payoff is likely to occur on a national level, where both the Penn and Ivy records will be under attack. And if those records fall, All-America honors are likely to follow.
McHugh has also qualified for the 200 IM with a 'B' cut time of 1:48.11 that ranks 59th in the nation.
The 2012 NCAA Division I Men's Swimming and Diving Championships will be held March 22-24 at the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center and are co-hosted by the Seattle Sports Commission and Seattle University. Preliminary heats and finals for the 200 IM are on March 22, the 100 breaststroke is on March 23, and the 200 breaststroke will follow on March 24. Full coverage of McHugh's progress will be available on PennAthletics.com.