Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 5
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
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(Photo provided courtesy of Columbia University Sports Information/Media relations)

WELL-SUITED: Sean MacKenzie smiles in a shot for the Columbia University men’s swimming team. MacKenzie, a former Princeton High standout, has shown that he is well-suited for the challenges of Ivy League swimming, excelling in the distance freestyle events for the Lions in his debut campaign. He will make a homecoming when Columbia swims at Princeton University on February 12.

Former PHS Swimming Star MacKenzie Making a Splash for Columbia Men’s Team

Bill Alden

Sean MacKenzie experienced early success in his career with the Princeton High boys’ swimming team.

As a freshman in 2006, the versatile and talented MacKenzie placed third in two individual events at the Mercer County Championships. A year later, he was named as the Most Valuable Swimmer on the boys’ side at the county meet as he won 200-meter individual medley, the 500 freestyle, and produced a blazing anchor leg to help PHS to a win and the meet record in the 400 free relay. MacKenzie went on to win another MVS award at the county meet last year, missing out in his junior season when he didn’t compete for PHS in order to focus on club swimming.

Ending his high school on a high note, MacKenzie led the way as PHS won the Public B sectional title last season.

Now, as a freshman on the Columbia University men’s swimming team, MacKenzie is learning that dominance on the next level doesn’t come quite so quickly.

“It is a new pool, new coach, new team; you have to adjust,” said MacKenzie. “It takes a while to get comfortable with everything.”

MacKenzie will have a special comfort level later this month when he comes home to compete against Princeton University at DeNunzio Pool.

“It is definitely going to be something,” said MacKenzie, who will be swimming against the Tigers on February 12. “I have thought about it a little bit.”

As MacKenzie has adjusted to college swimming, he has enjoyed more than a little bit of success.

Focusing on the distance freestyle races, MacKenzie placed third in the 1,000 free and sixth in the 500 in an early season meet against Yale. He posted his first college victory when he won the 1,000 free against Army on November 21.

MacKenzie started 2010 with a bang, winning both the 500 and 1,000 free against Bucknell on January 17. Last weekend, he won the 1,000 free in a meet against Brown.

In reflecting on his progress so far, MacKenzie said he has gotten into a routine.

“The mindset of college swimming is quality over quantity so we do less in terms of yards,” said MacKenzie, noting that the team typically has double sessions on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays where the swimmers have a morning practice at 6:00 a.m. in addition to their normal afternoon session.

“It is a bit of a challenge. You have a lot of free time when you aren’t at practice; it took me time to find the right balance. Every meet, my confidence has increased a little.”

Developing bonds with his teammates has helped MacKenzie’s confidence as well.

“Good team spirit is one of the great things about college swimming,” asserted MacKenzie.

“There is a reliable network to help me in and out of the water. We have a good freshman class. Doing the training definitely brings us together. Everyone gets along.”

Columbia head coach Jim Bolster likes the way MacKenzie has fit in with the team.

“Sean is a quiet kid but the kids gravitate to him, he has an interesting take on things” said Bolster, a Princeton native who is in his 26th year guiding the Lions. “He is quiet and steady but when you talk to him, you find out he is a funny guy.”

Bolster is impressed with MacKenzie’s serious approach to his swimming.

“He takes a lot of pride in his effort, he wants to do well and you don’t see that from everybody,” asserted Bolster.

“He gets intense satisfaction from swimming. He is interested in working hard. He has a sense of gratitude to the coaches.”

The Columbia coaching staff is thankful to have MacKenzie on board.

“We are looking forward to seeing how fast he goes when we shave and taper,” said Bolster.

“He has made nice improvement from the first meet to now; he enjoys competing for the team. We have had a lot of fun working with him. We are excited to have him with us, he has the desire you hope for.”

For MacKenzie, that desire reflects the influence of those who influenced him during his PHS years.

“Greg Hand [PHS swimming head coach] was definitely a big influence on my swimming and on things out of the water,” said MacKenzie, who also credits his Eastern Express club coach, Brent Matheson, with playing a key role in his development.

“He taught me values that I can apply now. I feel pretty blessed to be in the situation I am in with the family, friends, and mentors that have defined my character today. It is the simplicity of self satisfaction that inspires me to swim as fast as possible which produces my love for the sport.”

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