By Gary Curreri
Sun Sentinel Correspondent
Jun 22, 2021 4:52 PM
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Boca Raton’s Paige MacEachern always dreamed of going to UCLA on a swimming scholarship and with that a few months away, she was also able to get a step closer to another dream of competing for the United States Olympic swim team.
MacEachern, 18, a recent graduate of Boca Raton High School, placed fourth in the 400-meter individual medley at the U.S. Olympic Trials Wave I competition at the CHI Health Center in Omaha, Nebraska.
Representing Pine Crest Swimming, she shaved four seconds off her prelim time in finishing fourth in the finals with a 4:50.85 clocking. It was just off her top-seeded time of 4:48.09. Only the top two finishers in Wave I advanced to the Wave II trials a week later.
“I am very excited about going to UCLA’ it has always been my dream school since I was very little,” said MacEachern, who will start classes in September. She called competing in the trials “a very cool experience.”
“Many people don’t get an opportunity to compete in the Olympic Trials, so I just wanted to take it all in,” she said. “It was nice to accomplish that and finish strong. I didn’t think I would make it to the Olympic Trials, so it was a crazy, life-changing experience, especially for me because COVID was hard.”
MacEachern said she continued to train and work out, which at times included doing laps in her backyard swimming pool.
“I was running every day and still working out,” she said. “When I could go to the gym, I would go to the gym. I think I personally grew because of COVID. A lot of people stayed the same or were still doing times from pre-COVID.
“My pool is not very big, so I would probably get three strokes in, and then I touched the wall,” MacEachern said, laughing. “My club coach (Mariusz Podkoscielny) gave me a cord that you tie to your waist and you can get in endless swimming.”
Going into the prelims at the Trials, MacEachern said she was nervous.
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“I was terrified,” she said. “I was shaking. When I was swimming, my body was like, ‘What are you doing?’ I was kind of freaking out. Luckily, I got a chance to swim in the finals and now it is kind of cool to watch (on TV). They talk about how you walk through the tunnel and go from the waiting room and I can relate because I did all of that.”
She said she is looking forward to competing in the PAC-12 and the NCAAs with her sights set on returning to the Olympic Trials and possibly punching a ticket to the Olympics in 2024 or 2028.
“Now, this is just the beginning I’d say,” MacEachern said. “The next time is in three years and I would be a junior in college. It is something I look forward to. It makes me excited for the future.”
She owns two school records at Boca High — the 200-yard IM and the 100-yard breaststroke.
“It’s still cool to have those two records there and all of my teammates were great,” MacEachern said. “If I keep pushing, I think I can do even better at the next Trials.”