Former Pontiac Notre Dame Prep swimmer part of record-breaking teams at Albion College

By: Mark Vest | Rochester Post | Published January 22, 2014

 Pictured is Albion College’s MacKenzie Chesley in an event. The Pontiac Notre Dame Prep graduate has been a part of some record-breaking relay teams at Prep and Albion.

Pictured is Albion College’s MacKenzie Chesley in an event. The Pontiac Notre Dame Prep graduate has been a part of some record-breaking relay teams at Prep and Albion.

Photo courtesy of Lowell McGinnis

There were moments when former Pontiac Notre Dame Prep swimmer and Rochester native MacKenzie Chesley wasn’t sure she wanted to continue competing in a sport she has been involved with since childhood.

Although swimming had brought her a lot of enjoyment, Chesley didn’t know if she wanted to attempt balancing college with competitive swimming. After giving it some thought, she said realized that she didn’t want to give it up.

Despite receiving offers from NCAA Division I and II programs, Chesley opted to take her talents to Albion College, which competes at the Division III level.

Deciding to continue on with the sport and choosing Albion are decisions she is happy she made.

“It’s been really exciting,” said Chesley, a junior at Albion. “I didn’t think I would ever get the opportunity to swim in college. I found the team that has become my family. The people on it makes the experience that much more enjoyable; we really are family. They encourage you.”

Despite the challenges of balancing academics with athletics, Chesley, who said her grade-point average is 3.2, has had a “well-rounded college experience,” which includes having a position on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. Some of her experiences as a student-athlete have included being part of a project in which each Albion athletics team is involved with two community service events a year, working as an intern at Chrysler, and being part of three relay teams that broke three different school records.

Receiving the opportunity to swim in college didn’t just happen by accident, and Chesley offered some thoughts as to what some of the keys have been to making it to that level.

“I think the support system I had,” said Chesley, who is majoring in communications. “I had a great high school coach (Michael Weaver) who pushed me to keep me going. He really opened my eyes to what I could do with swimming. He really pushed my limits, wanted me to be the best that I can be in and out of the pool, and taught me some really great life lessons that I’ll never forget.

“And then the support of my family — being there for me whenever I needed them, being at every swim meet, pushing me and telling me I can do everything; I can swim in college, and I can be a part of other things, as well.”

Albion coach Jake Taber offered his thoughts on the kind of performer he has in Chesley.

“Mackenzie’s somebody that last year actually anchored all three of our free-style relays that broke school records,” he said. “(She) has a real nice feel for the water and races just about as well as anybody we’ve got. I think one of her greatest strengths as a swimmer is she finds a way to win close races. She races very, very well.”

While Chesley indicated she has missed some good home-cooked meals, as well as her dogs, she credited her college roommate, Ashley Seames, for helping her adjust to living away from home. And while she still has the remainder of her junior year, as well as her senior year, still ahead of her, Chesley has already had some experiences as a student-athlete that could provide her with some positive memories for years to come.

“It’s been everything I hoped for,” she said. “The fact that last year we broke three of them (school records), and to see my name on the board — that’s something I never would have thought back when I was in high school that I accomplished. And the friends I’ve made — our team is so close.

“Having that support system of great coaches along the way — I know, to this day, I can call my high school coach any moment if I’m having a rough time, and he’ll be there to lend me advice and keep me going. It’s definitely been a great experience.”