It was the first event of the first meet of her collegiate career when Lauren McCoy placed first in the 50-yard freestyle.
The same day, the Indian River High School graduate and current Randolph-Macon College freshman would go on to see first-place finishes in the 200-medley relay and 200-free relay, helping the Yellow Jackets’ women’s swim team to a 133-39 win over Sweet Briar to start the season.
While her NCAA debut may have been impressive, it may also have not be surprising to fans of the Indian River High School swim team, where McCoy was no stranger to first-place finishes and setting school records in the girls’ 100-meter backstroke, 50-meter freestyle, and multiple relay events just last season.
A three-time All-Conference selection at IR, McCoy’s resume in the pool eventually caught the attention of RMC scouts, and her eventually signing with the Yellow Jackets last February to become the first female swimmer in school history to continue her swimming career at the next level.
Despite a mid-season battle with pneumonia, the rest of McCoy’s freshman campaign would go just as swimmingly, closing out February when the Yellow Jackets took second-place overall at the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) Championships for the first time in four years, and when McCoy and her teammates placed third in the 200-freestyle relay, 400-medley relay, and 200-medley relay.
“Lauren has been a great addition to our team,” said RMC head coach Brent Kintzner. “She’s a hard worker and has been a part of a talented group of freshmen that helped our team improve in our conference. She was a big contributor to that accomplishment.”
“I love my college, I wouldn’t change a single decision I made,” said McCoy of choosing Randolph-Macon. “I knew after my first visit. Even my mom knew that I was going to end up there.”
Throughout the season, McCoy competed in mostly the 50-freestyle, 100-backstroke, and 200-backstroke, setting a new personal record in the 50-free with a time of 25.95.
But shedding seconds didn’t come without a price, as swimming became more than a full-time job for the freshman after arriving on campus last fall.
A typical day during the season includes 5:30 a.m. practices, swimming, yoga, the weight room, afternoon practice from 5-7 p.m., and even a three-hour practice on Saturday mornings; not to mention a full schedule of classes, exams, term-papers, and everything else that comes with juggling the college expereince.
“It’s a pretty crazy schedule, on Sundays I’m pretty sure we all just sleep in,” McCoy said, with a laugh. “It’s definitely something else. You have to develop good time management.”
The way the training is approached is another aspect that she needed to acclimate herself to early on, swimming one event each day in practice and working on that specific event exclusively, week in and week out.
While McCoy said that the full-time swim schedule got tough at times, mainly during the whole winter-break pneumonia thing, support from some of her old teammates at IR, including IR head coach Colin Crandell, kept her motivated throughout the season and striding on in the water.
“Colin would encourage me to keep pushing myself throughout the season,” said McCoy, who’s known Crandell since her days of swimming backwards-breaststroke with the Sea Colony Sharks. “It definitely helped keep me going. It was awesome to know that everyone was still cheering me on.”
“It was a privilege to be able to work with Lauren as a coach,” said Crandell. “Watching her overcome adversity and injury while gaining a true pulse on her work ethic — her success comes as no surprise. To be able to see swimmers like Lauren actualize their goals, that’s the whole reason you go into coaching. She’s the kind of person that motivates and reminds me to always work hard.”
McCoy recognized coaches such as Crandell as influential in not only supporting her along her journey, but in paving the way for her ability to make such an early impact at the college level.
“They set me up really well,” she said. “When I got to school I didn’t need a lot of work on my technique, it’s was mostly strength and conditioning.”
She was also pushed by some of her new teammates and coaches at RMC, making up part of the sizable and talented freshmen class that helped the team to their most successful finish in recent years.
“We do everything together,” McCoy said of her teammates. “You live together, go out together, eat together, practice together, you’re in classes together. They understand everything that you’re going through.
“The upperclassmen completely adopted us as soon as we joined the team,” she continued. “By the end of the season the seniors were telling us that it was the closest the swim team had ever been.”
While her work load in the pool has decreased since conferences, giving her some much needed time to focus on her studies as a freshman Biology major, currently McCoy is still training with her teammates during the off-season in preparation for her upcoming sophomore campaign.
Before that however, she’ll get a chance to reunite with her former relay team of Lindsey Grow, Erin Haden, and McKenna Burke as members of the Middlesex Beach Patrol this summer, where Crandell will also join them as a captain on the patrol.
“My coach asked what I was planning on doing this summer to stay in shape and I told him I was guarding. He told me he wasn’t worried about me after that,” McCoy said with a laugh. “He knew that meant I’d be ready to go next season.”
With former teammates, including Grow, going on to sign their own NCAA letters of intent this past winter, McCoy has also helped blaze the trail for the school’s emerging swim program by setting an example of where dedication to the sport can eventually lead, something that Crandell said would be vital in the team’s continued success.
“Lauren’s success provides hope and motivation for some of the younger swimmers currently in the program,” Crandell said. “It shows them that there is something more awaiting for them after high school if they continue to work hard, and for that I am grateful to her.”
Come next season, McCoy will be ready to continue the trail blazing efforts, as she sets her sights on helping the Yellow Jackets get to the top of the ODAC, and to continue setting the pace on her own individual career, that’s just getting started.
“Lauren has endless potential,” Kintzner said of McCoy’s future with the team. “Im looking forward to seeing how well she does throughout the rest of her college career.”