Given that she was studying 4,000 miles from Bates College when swimming season started, Bates College junior Lindsey Prelgovisk is just happy to be one of a dozen Bobcats in Texas this week for the NCAA Division III Swimming and Diving Championships.

“Honestly, I just want to have fun,” Prelgovisk said. “I didn’t think coming back from abroad that I would ever make nationals this year.”

Prelgovisk, an Oakland native and former Messalonskee star, will compete in the 100 butterfly and the 400-yard freestyle relay. The NCAA Division III swimming and diving championships begin Wednesday in Shenandoah, Texas, and run every day through Saturday.

It is Prelgovisk’s second trip to nationals in as many years. She’s never taken the conventional route either time.

Bates’ swimming and diving season began in November while Prelgovisk was in the midst of a full semester studying in Florence, Italy.

Although she did swim regularly in a pool about a half-mile from where she was living in Florence, she knew when she returned in January she would be behind her teammates, who already had competed in three meets.

“I didn’t realize with an entire semester out of intense training, your body forgets that that’s like,” she said.

It didn’t take long for her strokes and technique to return to form, and coach Peter Casares and his staff helped her increase her yardage and strength quickly. Prelgovisk, meanwhile, tempered her expectations as far as results, something she’d done a year earlier, under very different circumstances.

“It took some pressure off because I was thinking I did just get back and I can do is work my hardest, do the best I can and hopefully things would work out,” she said.

With six weeks to train, she qualified for the New England Small College Athletic Conference championships and earned the third all-NESCAC award of her career as part of the Bobcats’ 800-yard relay team. That same weekend, she swam three time trials to qualify for nationals in the 100 fly. She missed by about 1/10th of a second on her second try then, swimming by herself on the Bobcats’ final day at Wesleyan University, made the cut on her third try.

“She just invents new ways to get there,” Casares said. “I know I shouldn’t be surprised by what she does anymore. She continues to defy logic.”

“The more I relax, the better I swim,” she said. “Especially having such a short season, I just wanted to have fun.”

Prelgovisk said she learned to be more relaxed in the pool after she rallied from a devastating injury the second half of her freshman year to make her nationals debut as a sophomore.

She suffered from snapping scapula syndrome and ultimately tore the muscles that hold our shoulder blades and rib cage together. Doctors told her they didn’t know how she would recover from the injury or whether she could regain the speed she once had in the pool.

After four-to-five months of physical therapy and an intense summer spent building her strength and essentially learning to swim differently, she decided to take it slow going into her sophomore year.

“I went into the season just taking it day by day, practice by practice. Like, ‘Can I make yardage today? Can I do lifting? Can I make it through the day?” said Prelgovisk, who won two state and two New England championships at Messalonskee. “My only goal was to make NESCACs.”

Casares said Prelgovisk would figure out how to adjust and become a strong swimmer again.

“She has a dancing background. Her mother (Elizabeth) swam at UMaine,” Casares said. “She knows how to move and how to work with the water. She’s very technique-oriented.”

“She came back to the sport with a renewed enthusiasm and fire that was strong,” he added. “I also think she had some lower expectations. She was more invested in the process than what her times were. It was testimony to her mental toughness and physical ability that she continued to improve.”

She finished third in the 100 butterfly at NESCACs and qualified for nationals in that event as well as in the 200 individual medley. She placed 22nd in both events at the DIII championships in Indiana.

Prelgovisk, who barely missed qualifying for the 200 IM again this year, isn’t fixated on improving upon last year’s results. She said she’s most looking forward to competing with her teammates in the 400 free relay and soaking in the atmosphere of another national championship meet.

“It’s going to be so much fun swimming a relay because the energy is so high in relays and it’s so exciting,” she said. “Obviously, I just want to swim well but I want everyone to do really well. We have 12 swimmers going to nationals, which is more than ever for Bates, and it’s just a great group of people.”

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33

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