The Hillsdale women’s swim team had a fantastic weekend of competition at the three-day Calvin Invite. The Chargers, who were well-rested and ready to go, finished in fifth place overall and broke four school records and had many personal-best times in the process.
On the first day of competition, freshman Zoe Hopkins set the school record in the 1650 free with a time of 18:04.11. The fact that Hopkins had never raced the uncommon event before didn’t faze her as she continues to post impressive times. Hopkins’ performance was not an easy victory.
“I was only 400 yards in and coach (Kirner) was already signaling for me to go faster and pick up my pace,” Hopkins said.
Swimming an event like that proved to be as much of a mental challenge as a physical one for Hopkins, as her “mind really started to wander in such a long event,” she added. Fellow freshman Mikalah Smith, who swam the same event, also performed well and won her respective heat in 18:11.
The next day, following Hopkins’ lead, sophomores Rachael Kurtz and Cayley Cruickshank each set new school records. Kurtz, who had never broken 24 seconds before in the 50 free, did it twice in one day. Her time of 23.77 ranks her 16th overall in the nation for DII, though only 8th in the GLIAC, which is a reflection of the depth of the competition of the conference.
Cruickshank also performed notably. Despite battling an injury earlier in the year, Cruickshank swam an impressive 1:05.9. Training partner and fellow sophomore Alison Bauer was close behind with an equally impressive 1:06.88.
“It was nice for both of us to swim personal bests because we’ve both had struggles in the past with dropping time,” Bauer said. “It’s also nice because it’s only mid-season and we weren’t fully tapered, so we’re optimistic for what could happen at GLIACs.”
The final day of competition finally saw Hillsdale break a team record after three individual ones were shattered. In the 200 free relay, Hillsdale’s team of Sami Ward, Sarah Leitner, Hayley Johnson, and Rachael Kurtz swam 1:36.78 in a time trial. Kirner thought the team was capable of a faster time than they swam in the meet, so he had the girls try again at night after the official racing was over. The second time, everything clicked and a school record resulted. Sophomore diver Gretchen Geist also had a successful day on Saturday. Geist scored 304.5 points in her event, which was not only a personal best showing, but also an eighth place finish.
Coach Kurt Kirner was pleased with the results.
“This might be the best mid-season meet we’ve ever had,” Kirner said. “The girls have been working very hard in practice and have the right mindset when it comes time to race.”
Although the girls did very well at Calvin, “it’s important for them not to get complacent after strong performances like these,” Kirner added.
For now, the girls will dive back into hard training which they will continue until their final preparations and tapering for GLIACs.