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LDS athlete opens mission call before winning NAIA national swimming title

SHARE LDS athlete opens mission call before winning NAIA national swimming title

It's been a pretty good week for Joel Thatcher.

On Monday he opened his mission call from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On Thursday, he won a national swimming title.

Thatcher is a freshman student-athlete at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Savannah, Georgia. He received word that his mission call arrived on Monday, according to an email from his father, Geoff Thatcher. Picking up the large envelope was a little tricky though because the school's mail room didn't open Tuesday until 8:30 a.m., and the team bus was departing for the NAIA national championship at 8 a.m.

"We faced the prospect of waiting another week to find out where he'd be serving," Geoff Thatcher wrote in his email. "After a lot of prayer, especially from Joel's mom, he ventured over to the mail room at 7:55 a.m. and sure enough, an angel came in early and was kind enough to give Joel his mission call."

Aboard the bus, Joel Thatcher dialed his parents, and with his coach and teammates watching, he opened his mission call. He was called to serve in the Cusco Peru Mission and reports to the MTC in Lima on June 14, just 10 days after the end of finishing his freshman year, Geoff Thatcher said.

"His entire team, and coach, have been supportive of his desire to serve even though they say they will desperately miss him when he’s gone," Geoff Thatcher wrote in an email.

A few days after opening his mission call, Joel Thatcher set a new meet record in the 500 freestyle and won an NAIA national championship. An article covering the event for Swimswam.com notes that Thatcher's time, a new personal best of 4:20.35, was fast enough to win a Division III championship the previous season or finish in the top three at the 2016 NCAA Division II championships.

Thatcher has also been part of two national championship relay teams. He was the third leg of the 800 free relay team and he anchored the 400 medley relay, helping to engineer a come-from-behind victory.

Thatcher will swim the 200 freestyle on Friday and will compete in the mile and 400 freestyle relay on Saturday.