By Laura Amato
Joanna McNulty doesn’t think when she swims. At this point, swimming is instinctual for The Mary Louis Academy junior. She jumps into the pool, settles into her stroke and, more often than not, finishes at the front of the pack.
Of course, there’s something to be said for instinct and, McNulty’s instincts have led her to a berth in the state championship tournament.
The Hilltoppers star qualified for the tournament just a week into the regular season—posting a 59-second finish in the 100-meter butterfly—and while she says she doesn’t think when she swims, McNulty can’t help but be a bit proud of herself.
“I know how much I train and how hard I work, so I put it all out there when I swim,” McNulty said. “I never want to regret anything I do in the pool.”
McNulty has spent the better part of her life in a pool and she’s determined to make a statement every single time she dives into the water.
After all, she’s got a bit of a family reputation to live up to.
“I did a lot of sports when I was younger, but both of my older cousins swam,” McNulty said. “And they both swam at Division I colleges so it just kind of sparked from there. I kind of just started getting interested from that.”
McNulty has been swimming for the Hilltoppers since she started high school, but she’s been racing competitively since third grade. In fact, her current schedule is jam-packed with practices and meets for both TMLA and her club squad—the Long Island Aquatic Club in Garden City.
It’s a schedule that is precise—just like the way McNulty swims—but is also one she knows will pay off in the long run.
“It’s a lot. I swim nine times a week—before and after school Monday, Tuesday and Friday [as well as once three other days],” she said. “So I usually get home late, like around 9 o’clock, and I’m just up late doing my homework. It’s a lot. I don’t always get to go a lot of things like my friends. I do a lot of my homework on the weekend. It’s a lot of mental stuff to work through it, but it’s worth it.”
McNulty—just like most of the country—spent a good chunk of her summer watching the Olympics and cheering for the likes of Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky as they racked up gold medals.
But, unlike the rest of the country, McNulty’s interest in swimming extends well beyond one week every four years. In fact, since she started competing, McNulty has done her best to show just how athletic swimmers are.
“I know some of my friends on my club team, their high schools don’t even recognize swimming as a sport,” McNulty said. “But it’s not just the Olympics—we’re here throughout these other four years, always working really hard.”
McNulty has her whole future planned.
She’s going to keep swimming—hopefully at the Division I level—and she’s going to prove the sport is just that, a sport chock full of competition and talent.
But before she does that, she’s going to race for the Hilltoppers and compete for a state title. That, at least, is something she doesn’t have to think too much about.
“I’m hoping to qualify in more events,” McNulty said. “I haven’t been able to do the 500 yet so I want to qualify in that soon. I just want to do well in that.”