By Andrew Yourell, Staff Writer
When Katie Mann exits the water at the NCAA Division I Championships on March 21, it will mark the end of one of the most successful swimming careers in Wildcat history. The senior from Prince George, British Columbia, recently earned her third appearance at the NCAAs, a feat that head coach Josh Willman highlighted when discussing Mann’s career.
“It’s been awesome to have someone here on the team for three years in a row who’s made that meet. I don’t think people really realize, but only five percent of the women’s Division I swimmers qualify for this meet,” Willman said.
But for Mann, the NCAA meet over the spring break marks an end to one chapter of her swimming career, but not the end entirely. She plans to return to Canada and to continue swimming with the Edmonton Keyano Swim Club. She’s excited to compete for a young new coach, alongside other former NCAA swimmers, and some of the elite Canadian swimmers.
“It’s people that are really motivated, who want to do really well,” she said of the team. Her hope is to compete well at the Canadian Olympic Trials, though she admits that getting back into the rhythm of a long-course, 50-meter pool will be tough. Only the top two finishers at Trials make the Olympic team. She remains confident, however, especially after a fourth place finish at the Canadian Nationals this summer.
“If I have an awesome next year, the long course training goes as planned, I might be able to,” she said of making the Canadian team for Rio. “”But I won’t be devastated if I don’t make it…really my goal next year is to give it my all for one more year, and just see where I end up.”
And if Olympic swimming doesn’t pan out for her? Mann, an English major, has already studied for and taken the LSATs in preparation for going to law school once she’s done swimming. She was recently recognized at the America East Championships for her success in the classroom, receiving the Elite 18 Award for her high GPA.
As for her goals with her remaining time on the Wildcats’ roster, Mann says that she hopes to make the top 16 at the NCAA meet, which will give her the opportunity to swim in the finals, and to move even higher in the rankings. Last year, her 19th place finish in the 400-yard individual medley came up just short, but she and Willman think this year may be different.
“We’re trying to get her into the top-16, so I know that’s her goal,” said Willman.
In Willman’s tenure, he’s sent a handful of other swimmers to the NCAA meet, most notably All-American Denise Leckenby, who still holds the team records in the 50 and 100-yard freestyles.
“Denise is an All-American, and you can’t beat top eight in the country,” he said when asked where Mann would stack up all time. “Katie hasn’t done that…I’d say Katie is probably the most versatile swimmer we’ve ever had here.”
Mann’s versatility certainly helped the Wildcats this season as they finished second place overall at the America East Championships by a mere 14 points. Mann was the runner-up in the 200-yard IM at the meet to the conference record holder, Emily Escobedo of UMBC, and won the 400-yard IM by almost an entire length of the pool. She swam legs in four relays, three of which won at the meet, and she also swam the 200-yard butterfly, winning the event with the only sub-two minute time at the meet.
Regardless of how she fares in Greensboro, North Carolina, Mann will end her UNH career as one of the most highly decorated Wildcat swimmers ever. She currently holds the team records in the 100-yard breaststroke (1:02.63), 200-yard breaststroke (2:10.30), 200-yard IM (1:58.78), and the 400-yard IM (4:09.40), and swam legs in the team-record holding 400-yard medley relay (3:41.88) and 400-yard freestyle relay (3:22.55).
Mann is currently ranked 29th in the 400-yard IM and 33rd in the 200-yard breaststroke, and will be able to swim in the 200-yard IM because of her B-cut time.
The NCAA Division I Championships will take place from March 19 to March 21 at the Greensboro Aquatic Center in Greensboro, North Carolina. The first two days of the meet will be streamed live online via ESPN3.com, and the final day will stream on NCAA.com.