Ally McHugh, Little Flower grad and Penn State senior, swims to two medals at Nationals

US Nationals Swimming
Ally McHugh reacts after winning the 400-meter individual medley at the U.S. national championships swimming meet on Friday.

Penn State senior Ally McHugh, a graduate of Philadelphia’s Little Flower High School, collected her second medal of the 2018 USA Swimming Phillips 66 Nationals Sunday by winning the silver in the women’s 1,500-meter freestyle at the William Woollett Aquatics Center in Irvine, Calif.

McHugh dropped 13 seconds off her previous personal best, finishing the race in 16 minutes, 2.56 seconds. That time ranked her ninth in the world. She lost to Ashley Twichell, who won in 15:55.68. Twichell is the reigning Open Water 10K national champion. University of Southern California freshman Erica Sullivan (16:02.88) was third.

McHugh was fourth in the 1,500 through the first 1,350 meters, according to Penn State officials, but closed the gap on third place and moved into second by swimming the fastest laps in the pool on each of the final six laps in the 50-meter pool.

“Ashley got away from her, and Ashley is very experienced and tough, so she couldn’t quite reel her in,” Penn State head coach Tim Murphy said of McHugh.

On Friday night, McHugh overcame a nearly half-second deficit after the final turn to win the gold medal in the 400 individual medley.

In that race, McHugh passed both Brooke Forde of Stanford and Olympic medalist and defending national champion Leah Smith over the final 50 meters to touch the wall first in a personal-best 4:34.80. She became Penn State’s first women’s swimming U.S. national champion.

By winning Friday, McHugh will make her first trip to Japan as a member of the U.S. national team at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships in Tokyo on Aug. 9-14.

McHugh’s 400 IM time ranks her third in the world year-to-date and was 3.68 seconds shy of the American record of 4:31.12. She shaved nearly five seconds off her prelims time of 4:39.67, which was also a personal best.

McHugh swam the 400 freestyle prelims Saturday and placed 14th in a personal-best 4:11.32 but elected not to swim in the B-final. She placed fourth in the 800 free on Thursday.

McHugh is the reigning NCAA silver medalist in the 1,500’s equivalent 1,650-yard freestyle as she placed second in 15:36.27 to gold medalist Katie Ledecky at the 2018 NCAA championships in March. McHugh’s March performance made her the highest finishing Nittany Lion in program history.