SHARE

The Hillsdale College women swim team swam great times and took fourth place against the best com­pe­tition they’ve face all year at a meet in Grand Rapids on Dec. 1 through Dec. 3.

“It was the highest we’ve placed since I’ve been here,” senior Linda Okonkowski said of their per­for­mance at the Calvin College Invite.

Jug­gernaut Grand Valley State Uni­versity ran away with the meet, fin­ishing with 980 points, well ahead of second place Indi­anapolis Uni­versity who notched 661 points. Despite being beaten by Hillsdale earlier in the season, Northern Michigan Uni­versity snuck ahead of the Chargers with 466 points. Hillsdale scored 424 points thanks largely to a number of swim­mer’s stellar indi­vidual per­for­mances.

The Chargers, said head coach Kurt Kirner, were well pre­pared for the meet but swam slightly slower than expected times in the pre­lim­inary races Friday morning. The team made adjust­ments for Sat­urday and in 64 indi­vidual races, 60 proved to be season bests for the women.

Unlike dual meets in which Hills­dale’s extra­or­dinary depth makes a huge dif­ference, winning the Calvin Invi­ta­tional depends on top point scores.

“In a big meet, depth is watered down,” Kirner said. “It doesn’t go as far.”

While nearly everyone on the team swam a season best at Calvin, several swimmers were able to record top fin­ishes, including Okonkowski, senior Catherine Shilka, and freshman Rachael Kurtz.

Okonkowski earned five B‑cuts toward nationals, including an impressive first-place finish in the 200-yard IM with a time a 2:08.80.

“She is a big meet swimmer,” Kirner said. “She keeps getting stronger.”

For Okonkowski, B‑cuts won’t ensure her a trip back to nationals as they are only pro­vi­sional qual­i­fying times, but she is con­fident that when she’s fully tapered, those faster times will come.

Shilka took second in the 200-yard but­terfly in what Kirner called an impressive race.

Kurtz took third in the 100-yard freestyle at 52.91.

“I was very happy with the time,” Kurtz said.

Kirner hasn’t coached a sprinter this fast in a number of years, he said.

Among Hills­dale’s relay teams, the 200-yard medley team, com­posed of junior Sports Editor Sarah Leitner, freshman Kate Smith, Okonkowski and Kurtz, placed the highest at fifth. Their time of 1:49.97 was a season best.

Team members agreed the weekend pre­pared them well for con­ference meet in Feb­ruary.

“It is going to put us in a good position for GLIACs,” Okonkowski said.

The Chargers will get little reprieve heading into Christmas break. The ath­letes will be swimming inde­pen­dently in hometown pools or with former swim clubs and will be reporting their workouts back to Kirner daily.

On Jan. 3 they will come back to campus, where they will leave for their annual training trip to Fort Laud­erdale, Fla.

Training in Fort Laud­erdale will be rig­orous, said Kirner, and will include oppor­tu­nities to compete in some meets.

“It’s going to be really hard training-wise, but it’s a good group of girls, and it’s going to be a fun week and a half in the sun,” said Kurtz.

The Chargers next official meet will be against the Uni­versity of Indi­anapolis on Jan. 14.