Comerford goes out in style at NCAA Championships

The U of L swimming and diving teams had their best-ever finish at the recent NCAA Championships, led by senior Mallory Comerford 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Arthur Albiero took over a program with no national profile sixteen years ago.  The program's steady climb culminated in a best-ever finish in the recent NCAA tournament in Austin, Texas.  The women's team followed up a fifth-place finish a year ago, by earning a trophy with a fourth-place finish.  The men followed that up with a best-ever fifth place finish. 

The Cardinals are the first ACC program to have both its men's and women's teams finish in the top five at the NCAA's in the same season. They join Arizona, Auburn, California, Florida, Georgia, Southern California, Stanford and Texas as programs to have accomplished that double in the last 20 years.

"Who'd a thought sixteen years ago that we'd be in this position," said Albiero. "Somebody had to be crazy enough to believe that we could build it. It's a moment of appreciation for all the athletes, coaches and administrators who have helped make this happen."

The top individual was again Mallory Comerford.  The Senior from Kalamazoo, Michigan won both the 100 and 200 yard freestyle, the first woman to do so at the NCAA's in 13 years. It was her third straight win in the 200, becoming the only Cardinal to win an event three times.

"I think the biggest thing is the partnership that we've created," said Comerford. "We have a really good relationship with all the coaches.  We're able to be honest with each other and give honest feedback and find ways to get a little bit better each day."

Comerford was also named ACC women's swimmer of the year for the third time Friday.  She won the 100, 200 and 500 freestyle at the conference championships for the second straight year.  The senior admits that she never thought she'd be able to accomplish all that she has at U of L.

"If you have told me four years ago that I'd be sitting here talking to you about all this, I'd be like 'no way, that's crazy'."

Albiero may not have known exactly what he had, but he knew he had something special when he was recruiting her.

"I remember when she left my office on her recruiting visit," said Albiero.  "And I said guys, I'm not sure why but whatever it takes, she's my number one recruit.  We gotta find anything we can do to bring her to be part of our program.  I think it was a great match personality standpoint.  She's a tough as nails, no frills kinda girl, loves to compete and she was willing to work.  We've helped empower her to be the best Mallory she could be."    

Next up for Comerford, the World Championships in South Korea this summer, then a push toward the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. 

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