Mychala Lynch Comes All the Way Back to Win NCAA Swim Title

March 19, 2012 / by / 5 Comments

By Michael Ferraresi and Doug Carroll
GCU News Bureau

About two years ago, with her mother battling cancer, Mychala Lynch left her college swimming team and returned home to Arizona.

She decided that stepping away from her athletic scholarship was necessary to be by her mom’s side. And she assumed that her swimming career was over.

But last week, three years after her mom’s death, the 23-year-old senior claimed Grand Canyon University’s first national swim title during the NCAA Division II Championships in Texas.

The event capped an emotional past few years for Lynch, who transferred to GCU and retrained her body for the pool after leaving Texas Christian University.

“It was the first time I ever quit something,” said Lynch, who won the 100-yard butterfly in Mansfield, Texas, with a time of 54.37 seconds — missing a national Division II record by less than two-tenths of a second.

“But my mom said I wasn’t quitting,” she said. “My mom said there’s a difference between hating something and wanting to change something for the better. Deep down in my heart, this is what I love to do.”

Lynch said she failed to connect with her coaches and teammates at TCU. She took classes at Chandler-Gilbert Community College and went two years before swimming competitively for GCU for the past two seasons.

Aquatics Director Randy Bellah helped lure Lynch to GCU, which gave her the security of a cozier athletic department much closer to her hometown of Ahwatukee. Lynch also felt drawn to study nursing at GCU after helping her mother through at-home hospice. 

“She’s a strong Christian gal, and I felt that all of this wasn’t just a coincidence that it was coming together,” Bellah said.

The road back to the pool was difficult. Lynch is allergic to chlorine, so swimming is challenging enough without the added intensity of training for competitions. Her allergic reaction leads to asthma attacks, so she actually carries an inhaler with her to meets. Lynch said it took several months to get back into swim-shape for GCU.

“Nothing compares to the aerobic workout of swimming,” Lynch said. “I almost died when I first started again. I had the shakes constantly from the lactic acid.”

Lynch’s mother, Gretchen, passed away in 2009 after a two-year bout with colon cancer. The longtime schoolteacher was 53. Lynch swims with her mother’s ring on her finger to feel her mom’s soothing presence as she flies through the pool.  

Last week’s nationals also reconnected Lynch with her twin sister, Nicole, a fellow swimmer who competed for Colorado State University, and their father, Michael, who was unable to attend any previous GCU swim events this season.

Lynch said she was moved by her family’s emotional reaction to her victory, but joked she was thrilled that GCU’s first national swim title went to a woman.

She has been an inspiration for others on the Antelope women’s team, according to former teammate Mallory Freeman.

“She’s so positive,” Freeman said. “She goes into practice and gets her work done, and she’s always cheering on someone else.”

Lynch has appealed to the NCAA for an additional year of athletic eligibility based on her mother’s passing, citing the time that her mom’s illness took her away from training. The NCAA has yet to rule on her appeal.

Since she had planned on hanging up her goggles years ago, Lynch said she would be content with last week’s title. But she hopes to have one more shot at competing in college.

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5 Responses
  1. Chip Lamca


    Like anyone who knows you, I am proud as can be at your accomplishments, including but not limited to a national championship.

    God’s blessings both in and out of the pool

    Chip Lamca
    College of Christian Studies, Grand Canyon University.

    Mar.20.2012 at 5:26 pm
  2. Crystal Perry


    Honestly words cannot describe how proud I am to have such an amazing student! You are a beautiful woman… inside and out. The Lord has blessed you in so many ways… Yet, you remain humble. Truly an inspiration to all of us here in the CON.

    You have left such an impression on me, your professor. I know you are going to be an amazing addition to the nursing profession…

    Crystal Perry
    Assistant Professor
    College of Nursing
    Grand Canyon University

    Mar.20.2012 at 8:31 pm
  3. Alison Bruening

    You deserve every bit of it! Love you so much, Rosebud.

    Mar.23.2012 at 8:07 pm
  4. Aunt Diane

    You are amazing and all the hard work and effort – the commitments you make – the positive energy you have – they make a difference in swim and in life :) You make all of us so very proud – we love you so! Alex and Diane Bruening

    Mar.24.2012 at 11:45 pm
  5. Marilyn Yelder


    I am so proud of you and it is truly a blessing that I have the opportunity to have you in my class this Term. Congratulations on your win and may God continue to have favor and His hand on you. Blessings indeed.

    Marilyn Yelder
    Assistant Professor
    College of Nursing
    Grand Canyon University

    Mar.25.2012 at 4:01 pm
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