Courtesy of Missouri State's Sports Information Department
NORFOLK, Va. - Missouri State sophomore swimmer Paul Le was officially named to the College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) Division I All-America Team, the organization announced Tuesday (May 7).
To garner Honorable Mention All-America recognition, Le finished 15th overall in the 200-yard backstroke (1:42.57) on the final day (March 30) of the 2013 NCAA Championships in Indianapolis. In addition, he posted the 12th-fastest time in prelims and bettered his school record by .75 seconds with a time of 1:41.69. The two points scored by Le in the 200 back finals, represented the first points ever for a Missouri State squad at the NCAA Championships.
All-America honors were conferred upon those athletes who finished in the top-8 of an individual or relay event at the NCAA Championships. Athletes finishing places 9-16 in the consolation finals of individual or relay events received Honorable Mention All-America recognition.
While competing at the NCAA Division II Championships from 1972-82, the Bears produced 26 DII All-Americans. Le, however, is a trailblazer for the Missouri State swimming & diving program, becoming the Bears' first All-American at the Division I level.
"This is such a neat honor for Paul [Le] and our program because it's a first," head swimming & diving coach Dave Collins said. "Anytime you can be the first at something, that's a really big deal. Paul has done a lot of things for us in paving the way for what we hope to be doing in the future."
With NCAA consideration times in the 200-yard IM and 100-yard back from the 2013 MAC Championships, Le also had the opportunity to swim both events at nationals. The sixth swimming qualifier in MSU history began NCAAs with a 45th-place finish in the IM, followed by 33rd place in the 100 back on Friday.
Le has come a long way since his arrival at Missouri State in 2011. The product from Southmoore High in Moore, Okla., began his journey just under 50 seconds in the 100 back and 1 minute 50 seconds in the 200 back. Fast forward two years and he has rewritten the MSU record books in both events, as well as the 200 IM.
"We've really been able to tap into what makes Paul swim fast," Collins added. "For somebody to come in as a 1:49 backstroker and get to 1:41 in two years, that is a nice progression. We hope that continues through his final two seasons with us."
In between then, Le has solidified himself as one of the top swimmers in the Mid-American conference, earning All-MAC first team honors during his freshman and sophomore campaigns. At this year's MAC Championships, Le turned in runner-up performances, finishing behind MAC Swimmer of the Meet and All-American Jacob Hanson (EMU) in all three individual events.
Adding to his lengthy swimming resume, Le also participated last June in the 2012 U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials in Omaha, Neb. In his Olympic Trials debut, Le climbed up the charts, placing 39th out of 127 swimmers in the 100-meter back and 58th out of 107 participants in the 200-meter back.
"Coming into college, I didn't really have the NCAA meet or Trials on my radar, because I thought it was way out of my league," sophomore Paul Le noted. "It wasn't until Coach Collins put the idea in my head that it became a reality. It really proves that you can do anything if you put your mind to it."
With his first NCAA Championship experience in the books, Le is looking forward to next year and hopes to bring a larger group of Bears to the meet.
Le added, "My goal for next year is to qualify in three events, but I also want people to see that Missouri State swimming can compete against the top schools in the country. We deserve to be there."
The junior-to-be was tabbed MAC Swimmer of the Week twice this season and finished the season ranked top 100 nationally in the 200 back (15th), 100 back (39th) and 200 IM (51st).
Founded in 1922, the College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) - the oldest organization of college coaches in America - is a professional organization of college swimming and diving coaches dedicated to serving and providing leadership for the advancement of the sport at the collegiate level.