McDonald finished 15th after six dives in the prelim at 310.25 with Ohio State's Sean Moore taking 16th at 310.20 and Texas' Matthew Cooper missing out on reaching the consolation final by finishing 17th at 310.00. McDonald performed even better in the final with six more dives as he took third, 11th-overall, with a score of 337.30.
"He had a real steady consistent performance to make it in the top-16, which was really hard to do," diving coach Ron Piemonte said. "He just did a spectacular job, and it was really exciting and fun to watch. He's worked real hard this year, so it was nice to see it all come together.
"It was very stressful waiting for the other divers in the prelim because he was like the 12th diver out of 34," he added. "After he made his last dive, all he could do was just sit there and watch and wait and see what was happening with the divers that had a chance to bump him out. It was really close there, so it worked out well when he reached the consolation final, and his strong series of dives in the consolation was a great finish to the event."
With his performance, McDonald also becomes the second-ever Tech male to score points as an individual as Gus Calado was the first in 2006 with his fourth-place finish in the 100 butterfly. The 800 free relay team also finished 15th in 2006.
"I think this will do nothing but help our diving program," Piemonte said. "It shows the work ethic that we put in during the year for it to really come through at the end of the season. We worked real hard this year, and it was a goal that Mikey had set. It was nice to accomplish something on the first day of competition, and hopefully we can carry that over to the next two."
Kaan Tayla (Sr., Ankara, Turkey) was less fortunate as he had zero breaks from the competition, finishing tied-for-16th out of 49 swimmers in the 50-yard freestyle prelim with Cincinnati's Josh Schneider at 19.61. Tayla was behind after the first 25 yards, but swam a 9.96 in the final 25 compared to Schneider's 10.07 for the tie.
A swim-off was required to determine the final spot for the consolation final, and surprisingly, they tied again with matching 19.73s as the crowd erupted, resulting in a second swim-off. Schneider proved the victor in the third swim, 19.70-19.85, as Tayla officially placed 17th, missing out on the opportunity to earn points for Tech.
Tayla will now have a day to rest as he won't swim again until Saturday in the 100 free, while McDonald will look to score points in the 3-meter on Friday and in the platform on Saturday.