A Gophers women's swimmer is heading to Toyko to compete in the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships, an international tournament that is considered a top tier event within the swimming community.
Minnesota sophomore Mackenzie Padington took home three gold medals at the Canadian Trials, which were held in Alberta, Canada from July 18-22. The western Canada native said it was a perfect outcome reflecting her dedication to swimming throughout the past year.
“This shows the hard work I’ve been putting in over the past year has been paying off," Padington said. "I went from being a swimmer that not everyone knew in Canada to winning three national titles."
Padington placed first in the 400-, 800- and 1500-meter freestyle events.
Minnesota's men's and women's swim and dive head coach Kelly Kremer said he doesn’t recall another Gophers swimmer winning three medals at such a high level.
“I know we’ve had swimmers win two, but winning three, that might be a first for us,” Kremer said.
With the first place finishes in those three events, Padington qualified for PanPacs in Toyko, which will be held August 9-14.
Padington will be racing against swimmers from the U.S., Australia, China and many other countries, but she said she is ready to compete.
“I don’t give up when the going gets tough. It’s going to get rocky and I’m able to face that,” Padington said. “I think it’s just my attitude and hatred of losing that really gets me going.”
Padington began swimming when she was 5 years old and looked up to her older sister, Taylor, as a role model.
“I really looked up to my sister Taylor growing up because she went to school for swimming as well,” Padington said. “So, I really just wanted to be like her.”
Other than her sister Taylor, who swam at Boise State University, Padington says she looked up to professionals like Ryan Cochrane and Michael Phelps.
“I mean, who doesn’t look up to Michael Phelps when they are younger,” Padington said.
Padington, originally from Campbell River in British Columbia, came to the U.S. to go to college, completing her first year with Minnesota this spring.
She said the transition to the U.S. was different but nice.
“I think whenever you move it's always a huge change and an adaptation you make,” Padington said. “I think going to Minnesota was a lot easier for me because it seemed very Canadian-like.”
Coming into last season, coach Kremer said he had high expectations for Padington. Padington herself wanted to reach for the ceiling as well.
“I wanted to come into the school and swimming, do all these things like finals at the NCAA and just really be a big help to the team,” Padington said. “I fell short in a few of these, but I learned a lot from that.”
Although Padington did not place at the NCAA Championships individually she achieved All-American honors for her role on the 800 free-relay team, which set the school record of 6:56.40.
Fellow teammate Abbey Erwin says there is a lot more to come from Padington.
“I know she’s already gotten faster and will continue to improve on that,” Erwin said. “I’m really excited to see what comes next.”
Erwin shared that Padington's success comes from her ability to get focused when it comes down to a race.
As for Padington, her ultimate goal is the 2020 Summer Olympics in Toyoko.
“Everything I’m doing in swimming – that's [the Olympics] at the back of my mind,” Padington said. “I’m on track right now, so I just need to put in more work each year to achieve my dream.”