FEATURE: Michaela Butler Shines In NCAA Championships
March 27, 2013
By: Mark Chiarelli, Daily Collegian
Amazing, astonishing, inspiring, fabulous.
Butler became the highest scoring swimming and diving athlete in Atlantic 10 history, placing fourth on the 1-meter springboard and 14th on the 3-meter springboard. Already the owner of the school's all-time 1-meter springboard record, Butler went on to break her own mark in both the preliminary and championship round, posting scores of 309.05 and 333.45, respectively.
Butler's 18 points over the two-day meet was the highest overall point total in A-10 swimming and diving history. She is the first woman swimmer or diver in program history to compete in the NCAA championships, and only the third athlete ever to represent UMass in this event.
"What Michaela accomplished was beyond expectations, especially going in for the first time." Newcomb said. "This is such a high level of diving and for her to dive great is a great tribute to her as an athlete."
Butler's performance in the championship was described as "icing on the cake" by diving coach Mandy Hixon.
"Michaela did every one of her dives the very best she could do," she added. For all her success, Butler said her original goal was only to earn an automatic qualifier at the NCAA Zone A Diving meet on March 15 and 16.
"My goal this season was to just make it to the NCAA championship, and it actually made it a lot better going in with no expectations," she said.
Butler wasted little time in setting new personal bests at the meet. Her preliminary round 1-meter score of 309.05 solidified a top-eight finish, making her the first All-American diver in UMass school history.
"I was really excited about getting into the top eight, and becoming an All-American really meant a lot to me," she said.
Hixon believed Butler's preliminary showing was crucial to her success in the championship dive, as it allowed her to "have some fun, relax and dive." With that in mind, Butler went on to post her personal best of 333.45.
Newcomb also noted how Butler's achievements should impact the program moving forward.
"Finishing that high tends to raise a few eyebrows and people tend to look at you a little differently," he said. "It's good for the program, the university, and the athletic department. This is national recognition and it was a pretty phenomenal weekend."
It's been a whirlwind week for Butler, who was named the UMass Athlete of the Week by the UMass Sports Luncheon Committee, her second nomination in as many weeks.
But now that her performance has begun to sink in, Butler is ready to move on.
"It's been a really exciting week," she said, "but now it's time to get back to school and a normal life again."
Mark Chiarelli can be reached email@example.com and followed on Twitter @Mark_Chiarelli.
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