Second-year Cooper Knapp is now an All-American and national champion after competing in the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships this past weekend in Bloomington, Indiana.
Knapp competed in two events, finishing sixth in the 400-yard individual medley with a time of 3:55.74, and earning the first place finish in the 200-yard butterfly coming in at 1:46.45. He earned All-American honors in both events, while setting the second-highest time in school history in the first 100 yards of the butterfly.
“It’s surreal,” Knapp said. “I’m honestly still shocked and processing it all.”
The national championship marks the first in program history since Michelle Coombs won the 100-yard freestyle in 2007. It also marks the first on the men’s side since New Paltz swimming legend Louis Petto won the 200-yard and 500-yard freestyles in 1994, as well as the first men’s team All-American honors.
“Anytime those historic races happen, that’s really, really fun,” said head coach Tom Eickelberg. “Everything (Knapp) does has a reason, and that reason is very obvious. It was just such a special swim.”
Prior to the weekend, Knapp was seeded third in the butterfly, and 22nd in the medley, earnestly defying both odds. He also was able to place ninth in the 200-yard individual medley last Wednesday, earning All-American Honorable Mention honors with a time of 1:48.28.
“I had an amazing meet that would not have happened without the three weeks of training with Coach Eickelberg, and the support that my captain, Caleb Treadwell, brought to the meet,” said Knapp. “I am grateful for everyone who helped relieve the stress that comes with being a student-athlete.”
Knapp’s achievements are just another mark on his already impressive resume. After breaking the 200-yard and 400-yard individual medley records in this year’s State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) championships with times of 1:50.09 and 3:59.67, respectively, he has been named to the SUNYAC men’s swimming and diving all-conference first team as well.
In Knapp’s first year as a Hawk, he broke SUNYAC records in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 50.37, as well as the 200-yard butterfly coming in at 1:51.48. He was named the 2017 SUNYAC rookie of year, as well as earning all-conference first team honors.
The biochemistry major from Glens Falls, N.Y is aiming to be the first four-time SUNYAC all-conference first team member in men’s swimming since John Nasky of Geneseo did from 2012 to 2015. A team player, Knapp also hopes his championship run will bring success to the swimming program in his last two years.
“(The championship) shows that New Paltz has an elite level of athletics, which should help our numbers grow in the future,” Knapp said. “One goal for my last two years will be to push our teams limits, in hopes of more people going to the NCAAs. I will certainly be going after another title.”
“The thing I’m most proud of is that he’s a great teammate,” said Eickelberg. “Last year Cooper won two conference titles, this year a national championship, and who knows, next year our goal could be for him to win two or three. He’s a super gifted athlete.”