During Lauren McCoy’s first swimming lesson, when she was being taught the breaststroke, she started swimming backwards. Needless to say, in terms of her swimming career, there was nowhere else to go but up — or, for that matter, forward.
“I had a lot of room to improve,” McCoy recalled with a laugh. “When they first taught it to me, I started going backwards. I was like, ‘Wow. OK — not gonna be great at this sport, but I’m gonna keep going with it.’”
Fast-forward five years, and the Indian River High School senior still isn’t a huge fan of the breaststroke but has become one of the area’s best swimmers. She holds multiple Indian River High School records, was selected to the Henlopen All-Conference team during her sophomore and junior seasons, and will likely be selected again after the completion of her senior season.
Then, just last Thursday, McCoy became the first female and third overall swimmer in school history to go on to the NCAA; announcing plans to swim at Randolph-Macon College next year.
According to IRHS head swimming coach Colin Crandel, who has coached McCoy for both the Sea Colony Sharks and the Indians, what McCoy brings to a team extends far beyond her times in the water.
“If you could describe Lauren in one word, it’s ‘Smile.’ She just radiates positive energy,” he said. “That’s what she brings. Somebody could be having the worst day, and then she’ll look at you and smile, and then everybody smiles. It’s infectious.
“[Randolph Macon] is getting the whole person; she’s intelligent, she’s positive, she’s athletic, she’s beautiful all around — what she brings is that good swing in the right direction, and that is better than any training.”
Interestingly enough, Randolph-Macon’s swimming coach and team dynamic reminded McCoy a lot of that of the Indians, which she said was a major factor in her decision during the recruitment process.
“This [Indian River] team is just so close. I felt that when I went down there,” she said of the similarities. “When I went to Randolph Macon, I kind of just felt at home. I knew that’s where I wanted to go.”
At the next level, McCoy will benefit from having something that she’s never had before: full time access to a pool. With renovations at Sea Colony prohibiting the Indians from swimming there this season, it’s no secret that Crandel has had to be creative with practices for his squad — finding pool time where they can, and implementing more mental workouts, such as yoga, when they can’t. It’s for that reason that he believes that, really, despite all of her success already, McCoy has just begun to scratch the surface as a swimmer.
“She’s gonna have so much more [potential], because they’ll have more to offer,” he said, noting that he looks forward to hearing about new personal bests over the next four years. “She’ll have the facility with weight rooms, with all the equipment — the sky’s the limit with her.”
Before McCoy joins her new team and takes advantage of the new facilities, she still has the state championships at the University of Delaware to attend at the end of the month — where she’ll be looking add yet another checkmark to an already accomplished résumé.
Sure, there have been plenty of individual milestones — such as setting the school’s 100-meter backstroke record or a new record in the 50-meter freestyle during the last dual meet of her career — but, to McCoy, it’s seeing her teammates break records of their own that has meant the most to her.
“When I see someone else break a record, it just makes me so happy for them, because I know how hard they worked to get that,” she said. “I’ve seen Lindsey [Grow] break records, and it makes my day. It’s just amazing to see that.”
With that philosophy, it’s no wonder that she said that one of her favorite moments included a lot of those teammates, when she and 400-free relay teammates Grow and juniors McKenna Burke and Erin Haden set a new school record at Milford earlier this season, while the rest of the team cheered them on.
“When we broke the 400-free relay record — I have no words to describe how excited that made me. There’s the four of us, working our [tails] off, and we finally got it,” McCoy said. “I had the support of so many people. To do well, it makes me feel good. It makes me feel like I’m not letting them down, and I hate letting people down. So I just worked hard so I didn’t.”