After propelling women’s swimming through the regular season and to new heights in the UAAs with the program’s best-ever sixth-place finish, first-year Cassie O’Neill will have to put off her NCAAs hopes until next year.
Two weeks ago at the league championships in Cleveland, O’Neill posted provisional qualifying times in the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke at 1:07.53 and 2:25.71. The finishes were good for runner-up in both events in the highly competitive UAA, but left her on the bubble for a chance to dive in at Nationals in Houston March 8–10.
Without a midseason meet to taper times for, O’Neill and the Maroons generally aren’t able to begin posting B-cuts, giving opponents a head start in putting up qualifying times for a better bid. That scheduling quirk proved to make all the difference in O’Neill’s prospects, dimming her shots of putting the crowning touch on a stellar first year.
“I thought it wasn’t good, but I was thinking she still had a chance,” head coach Jason Weber said. “After our weekend of conference meets, I think she was 12th, and she had about eight spots to go. I didn’t think there were going to be that many girls who were going to beat her who weren’t already ahead of her.”
The one loophole left open for O’Neill was the limit on events. Swimmers choosing to scratch the 200-yard breaststroke for another event would have won her a spot, but not enough people decided to make the switch out to give O’Neill a lane.
National qualifiers were announced Friday with O’Neill’s name missing from the list. The Maroons’ backbone of a strong recruiting class lost out on the action by two spots, just over three-tenths of a second off the mark for grabbing a ticket to Texas. O’Neill has been looking at a chance at garnering All-American honors for most of the season, setting herself apart early on as the squad’s only possible NCAA contender.
From here on out, the Roseburg, Oregon native will look to keep up workouts and sneak in some pool time with a club squad. DIII regulations prevent her from officially training with the Maroons in the offseason.
When O’Neill and Chicago return to action next year, they’ll look to pick up where they left off with the achievements on 2006–2007 with a little help from the latest crop of rookies. The new wave of talent will help free O’Neill to bring her game to other lanes.