Meg Peel — daughter of a former Hope College national champion swimmer — quickly is making a name for herself in the pool.
The daughter of Rob Peel '87 has qualified for this week's nationals in both backstroke events. She is seeded in the Top 12 in both as a freshman.
Meg will swim the 100-yard backstroke on Friday and the 200 backstroke on Saturday. The 2018 NCAA Division III Championships are being held at the University of Indiana Natatorium in Bloomington.
"Nationals was the goal. Now that it's here, I'm kind of freaking out, but I am really excited," Peel said.
Meg is seeded sixth in the 200 backstroke with a school-record time of 2 minutes, 00.77 seconds this season. She is seeded 12th in the 100 backstroke with a school-record swim of 56.01.
Hope's 400 medley relay also qualified for nationals. Meg joins junior Sydney Asselin of Holland, Michigan (Holland Christian), senior Chloe Palajac of Dearborn, Michigan (Dearborn), and freshman Emma Schaefer of DeWitt, Michigan (St. John's) in the relay that competes on Friday.
Meg — a native of Spring Lake, Michigan (Spring Lake HS) who is pursuing a double major of communication and business — is thrilled to be joined by teammates at nationals.
"Just to have people you know with you makes it less nerve-racking," she said. "You have more fun when you share the experience with someone else."
It's been a successful freshman season for Meg.
She earned All-MIAA honors after sweeping the 100 and 200 backstroke titles at the league meet in February. She posted two NCAA B cuts during the championship races, going an MIAA record 2:00.77 in the 200 backstroke and 56.54 seconds the 100 backstroke. She went an MIAA record 56.01 in the 100 backstroke during preliminaries.
"Megan has improved. She'll continue to improve over the next several years as she gets stronger," head coach John Patnott said. "She's learning to train hard all the time and what she needs to do get stronger. What's funny is her dad needed that. He was about as big around as she is when he was a freshman."
Rob Peel was Hope's first NCAA champion in swimming. He won the 50-yard freestyle in 1987 as a senior.
"It's fun," Patnott said of coaching both Rob and Meg. "Rob didn't start swimming until his junior year of high school. He started late and continued to progress for 13 years, going to several Olympic Trials and of a course a national champion. Meg started earlier than her dad did. She's had a number of years of development on him, real good development in the last year when she joined Michigan Lakeshore Aquatics (club team)."
Rob coached Meg during her senior year of high school at Spring Lake. He also works as a financial advisor in West Michigan for Baird.
The two Peels share similar personalities, Patnott said.
"Meg's pretty driven, but she's just fun," Patnott said. "Rob was fun. He was always very competitive. He didn't mind celebrating after he won a race. It wasn't to celebrate that I beat you. It was to celebrate I had a good time. Meg is similar in that attitude."
Despite the family tie to Hope College, Meg initially did not look to follow in her father's lane and be a student-athlete here.
She thought she wanted to make her own waves.
"Sometimes I'm a little stubborn and kind was like 'Let me find it on own!'" Meg said. "My parents never pushed Hope. It was always just an idea.
"Originally, I was super excited about visiting other schools. Then I came here and kept comparing all my visits to Hope — mainly because of the people. I just loved the team. The people were friends I could see myself with for all of my life. Academic-wise, I couldn't ask for better teachers. Each teacher has a passion for what they do. Hope was a good choice.
"A pool, you can swim fast wherever you want. The people are what set Hope apart for me."