WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) — UNCW sophomore Brooke Knisely will join a select list of athletes when she competes in the NCAA Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships next week in Atlanta, Georgia. Knisely is just the seventh Seahawk to earn a spot in the championships, and the first since 2013. The Fayetteville, NC, native will swim in two events, the 500 Freestyle and the 1650 Freestyle, after qualifying for both at the Colonial Athletic Association Championships in Feb.
“I’m just going into it having fun and getting to experience it this year,” Knisely said. “It would be awesome to be able to score points there, but I’m not putting any pressure on myself to do that. I’m just really excited to get to experience it, and just have fun with my swims and hopefully get to do better than I did at conference. But if I don’t then it’s okay.”
The trip to the NCAAs caps off quite a sophomore year for Knisely. She swam the 500 Freestyle in nine events for the Seahawks, winning six and never finishing lower than fifth. She also won both events where she took part in the 1650 Freestyle. At the CAA Championships, Knisely set new school records of 4:44.66 in the 500 and 16:14.31 in the 1650, sweeping the events for UNCW.
“Last year, it was really hard to have consistent practices, because of COVID-19, all the protocols and everything, and I also had a back injury,” Knisely said about her freshman season. “So, I was out for a decent amount of time of the season. We also only had two in-season meets and I couldn’t swim in one of them because of my back. Being a freshman and not having a normal year at all, even with classes they were all on Zoom, and it was just difficult because I was in my dorm all the time. I couldn’t go out and meet new people because I was scared that I was going to get COVID and have to be out of swimming. I have been able to prove to myself what I can do in the pool this year, which I feel like I couldn’t do last year with all of the circumstances.”
Knisely’s first race will be the Women’s 500 Freestyle on Thursday, March 17th, followed by the 16-50 freestyle on Saturday. While she will be alone in the pool competing against the country’s best, she will have teammates, family and friends everywhere cheering for her. She also looks at this as an opportunity to elevate the UNCW program in the sport’s eyes.
“I think this will give everyone hope that they can make (the NCAA Championships),” Knisely said. “I do think there are more people on the team now that can make it, and some recruits coming in, I believe they can make it, too. It’s a good way to get our name out there and show all these top-tier schools that even mid-major schools can have people that make the NCAAs.”
Links to watch ESPN3’s streaming coverage of the NCAA Women’s Division 1 Swimming and Diving Championships will be posted here.
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