Sitting idle on the pool deck for more than two months last swimming season because of injuries, Linfield College senior Maggie May has come back strong for the Wildcats this winter and is competing well in Northwest Conference backstroke and individual medley events.
Early in her junior season, May noticed pain in her shoulder and arm, but did not think anything of it. The pain began to worsen and she decided to get it looked at.
“I took a lot of tests and MRIs, and was diagnosed with a bulging disk in my neck. I also found out that I had spinal cyanosis and an irregular neck curve,” says May. “Since my joints are flexible, the pain increases because of the movement of my arms, something that wouldn't really affect another athlete with flexible joints.
“Doctors said that my pain was caused from looking down at my textbooks and leaning over my desk a lot while I was studying. Now when I study I have to look out and put my books more in front of me.”
Earlier in her collegiate career, May participated in the butterfly, individual medley and backstroke events, but decided to stick primarily with the backstroke and IM because the injury limited her on butterfly strokes.
Another incident during her junior season also set her training back a couple of weeks. May was involved a car accident while with some friends. While she did not sustain any major injuries, she was sidelined two additional weeks of the season, shortchanging her training routine.
Though her injuries affected her in the pool, it did not stop her from giving back to others. This year, she is active in numerous campus activities and also volunteers as a swimming coach when she has the chance in her hometown of Aberdeen, Wash. “I coach kids ages 6-18 in the summers when I go home for break. I've been doing it for seven years and it's a great experience,” she says.
May believes coaching younger swimmers really benefits her as captain of the Wildcats swim team. “I don't really teach my teammates new techniques of how to swim – that's what the coaches are for. But I feel confident in helping them out when they have conflicts within the team or anything outside of the pool,” says May.
Teammate and close friend Tori Nickerson believes May is a well-rounded Wildcat, saying “Maggie always has a positive attitude no matter what team we are facing and she makes swimming enjoyable. She is a good captain, a natural leader and makes good decisions for the team as a whole. She gives me great advice and is definitely someone I look up to.”
Assistant coach Reid Kimura praises May's leadership and loves how she does the “work behind the scenes” to make herself and her team better.
After May competes in her final meet at this week's Northwest Conference Championships in Federal Way, Wash., Kimura says “Linfield is losing a really good swimmer. As far as leadership perspective, she's done organizational things such as getting suits and equipment for the rest of the team. The little things she does and that nobody else sees are really going to be missed. Maggie is always smiling and has a positive attitude.”
May has bright aspirations for her future and is pursuing a rigorous bachelor's degree in biology. On top of academic demands, May and her Wildcat teammates practice each Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6:30 a.m. for an hour and a half, and then return to the pool every afternoon at 3:30 for a couple more hours of training. Add to that several hours on Saturday for meets or additional practices, and finding time to complete school work and manage sleep can be difficult.
“We practice around 19 hours a week and I have missed some practices because of my labs,” she says. “I was always busy in high school though, so I'm used to that kind of time commitment. I thrive on being busy.”
May is also minoring in art and chemistry. She wanted to major in biology initially and had no intention of pursuing additional minors.
“I was interested in art during high school and took an art class the spring semester of my freshman year and liked it. And as for chemistry, it kind of goes along with biology so I decided to minor in that, too.”
After she receives her bachelor's degree in the spring, May plans to take a year off from studying to relax and continue to train kids for swimming. She then plans to apply for entrance to medical school at Oregon Health & Science University, the University of Washington and a few other schools.
– Rhys Lendio ‘17