‘Goal-oriented’ Bridget McGann is one of nation’s top swimmers in Class of 2024

Mendota junior, who specializes in the breaststroke, is committed to the University of Wisconsin

Bridget McGann

When Bridget McGann woke up at 4:30 a.m. June 15 to leave for swimming practice in Aurora, she already had 10 emails and five text messages from college coaches.

It was the first day NCAA coaches were able to contact incoming juniors, and as McGann drove to practice, she kept getting more notifications on her phone.

For the first week of recruiting, her phone “kept blowing up.”

That’s because the Mendota High School student is one of the top recruits in the nation.

She was listed as one of 30 “Best of the Rest” recruits for the Class of 2024 after SwimSwam Magazine’s top 20 list, she swam a time – after the deadline – that would have qualified her for the 2022 Olympic Trials in the 200-meter breaststroke, she owns the state record in the age 15-16 200-yard breaststroke (2:11.27) and finished top 11 in the 200-meter and 100-meter breaststroke at the Junior Nationals over the summer.

“Twelve was kind of that age [when I realized I could be an elite swimmer],” McGann said. “I got my first national cut when I was 12 and moved up to the national team group. From there, I was practicing with incredibly talented swimmers who were going [to Division I college programs]. I was racing them at practice, and I was keeping up with them. It was like, ‘I’m not their age yet, but I’m still competing with them and racing with them, so when I become that age, I’ll have the same opportunity as them.’”

McGann got into competitive swimming when she was 6 after realizing soccer was not her sport.

She swam with the Illinois Valley Dolphins for two years before moving to Delta Aquatics out of Oswego when she was 9. Last year, she joined the Academy Bullets out of Aurora.

“It came easy to me,” McGann said about swimming. “I understood everything my coaches told me, and I was very quick to learn the sport. I’m very goal-oriented. When I have a goal, I try to do everything I can to achieve it. I think all those things together helped.”

Throughout her career, she’s trained in all four strokes, but when she was 10, her coach felt the breaststroke was her best, and she spent the season focusing on it. She continues to put more emphasis on the breaststroke.

McGann’s training schedule is intense.

On Mondays and Thursdays, she wakes up at 5:30 a.m. to go to the YMCA in Peru, where she practices by herself for 45 to 50 minutes before going to school. At night, she has a two-hour practice in Aurora.

She wakes up at 5:45 a.m. to lift with a personal trainer on Tuesdays and has a two-hour practice at night. On Wednesdays and Fridays, she has an after-school lifting session and a two-hour practice.

McGann wakes up at 4:45 a.m. on Saturdays for a two-hour morning practice with an hour lifting session to follow.

Sunday is her only day completely off from swimming.

During the summer, three days per week she wakes up at 4:30 a.m. for a two-hour practice, and three days per week she wakes up at 6 a.m. for a two-hour practice. There are also two-hour night practices three days per week.

“I’m such a goal-oriented person that I just really want to do whatever I can to achieve my goals,” McGann said. “If that means waking up at 5:30, that’s what it means. Whatever it takes is what I’m going to do. Sometimes, it does feel like a lot, but at the end of the day, I know all the hard work I put in now is going to show up later and I’m going to be successful in the future.”

Right now, she’s focused on what she needs to do to qualify for the 2024 Olympic trials.

“I’m focused on practicing and getting everything in for the Olympic Trials,” McGann said. “[I’m working on] all the little things, getting those right so my races are as close to perfect as possible.”

She’s working on her breath control so she can stay underwater longer, her strength pushing off the wall on turns and her technique.

“I really need to work on breath control because taking advantage of time underwater has definitely grown over the past years because you’re going to be your fastest when you’re underwater,” McGann said. “Strength pushing off the walls is super important and something I’m working on with my trainer out of the water and with my coaches in the water.

[I’m working on] making sure my technique is perfect. Breaststroke is the most technical stroke, so if you have something even a little bit off, it could cause drag, which could cost you tenths of a second. Since swimming is a timed sport, tenths of a second really do matter.”

McGann is training with boys, as all her female club teammates are swimming for their high schools through this weekend’s state meet, but Mendota doesn’t offer swimming.

“I definitely would like to swim high school season because swimming is such an individual sport, but when you swim high school season, you’re swimming for a team and something more than yourself,” McGann said. “I do kind of wish I had that experience, but I also think with the goals I’m trying to achieve, not doing high school will help because I can continue to train with my coach. I do think club is best for me for the future.”

McGann will have the opportunity to swim for a school in college. She committed to the University of Wisconsin, choosing the Badgers over Indiana, Missouri, Auburn and Minnesota.

“What helped me choose Wisconsin is I built relationships with all the coaches,” McGann said. “I felt very comfortable with them and felt I could talk with them about anything. Wisconsin was my first official visit. The other four were the four weeks right after and every official visit I went to I compared to Wisconsin. None of them could beat Wisconsin. Every time I’d come home from another school, I was like, ‘Wisconsin is still on top.’

“On my way home from my last visit, we passed Wisconsin and we stopped by campus again. My family and I walked around campus one more time. From there, I was like, ‘This is the school.’ I loved not only the school environment but the swimmers on the team and the coaches. It just felt right.”