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The Hillsdale College women’s swim team placed third out of 14 teams at the Pheonix Fall Splash a the University of Chicago on Nov. 18 and 19. (Photo: Kenzi Dickhudt | Courtesy)

The Hillsdale College swim team made an impressive splash in Chicago at the three-day event that prepares the women for GLIAC competitions.  The University of Chicago hosted 14 teams for the eighth annual Phoenix Fall Classic from Nov. 18 to Nov. 20.  

For a young team, Hillsdale’s swim team made its college proud. The team finished the weekend with a total of 421 points.

Sophomore Anika Ellingson, proving herself a force to be reckoned with this season, claimed first place in both the 100-yard and 200-yard breaststroke races. In the 100-yard race she finished with a time of 1 minute, 3.45 seconds, just 0.10 seconds shy of her personal best.

Ellingson joined sophomore Tiffany Farris, senior Emily Shallman, and sophomore Suzanne DeTar to win first in the team relay race. 

Freshman Danielle LeBleu is yet another young Charger who came close to breaking school records as she took third in the 1650-yard freestyle ad 200-yard IM races. 

“One thing that stood out to me in Chicago was how amazing the team mindset was during the meet. A lot of people had lifetime bests or were close to it, and that kind of positive energy had a chain reaction effect on the team and how we raced each night in finals,” Ellingson said.   

Head coach Kurt Kirner said he believes this was the best midseason meet that he can remember in quite a while for the Chargers.

The team spirit has grown during this season — each girl on the team cheered for the others as teammates achieved major milestones throughout the event. Dickhudt said that she has loved watching her teammates swim so well, and she shares in the excitement of the team. 

“A single person’s triumph was celebrated continually as a triumph for the team. And honestly, that’s what makes big meets like Chicago and GLIACs so much fun,” Ellingson said. “I feel that sharing each other’s accomplishments brings us so much closer than a lot of other things we do as a team.”

According to Ellingson, while everyone else is on Christmas break, the team has about two weeks at home before flying to Florida for a training trip.

“We’ll just keep swimming,” Dickhudt added.    

Kirner said the women train through finals and then they head home and train with their clubs or HS teams while home. He also gives the team online workouts that they can do over break. 

“We will really step up water and dryland workouts. Training over break is a do-or-die situation so to speak,” Kirner said.  

On Jan. 3, the team will head down to Ft. Lauderdale to train for the second half of the season.

“This trip consists of a week and a half of intense practices, usually twice a day, that push us to our physical boundaries to help us get that extra training in before we begin our taper for our conference meet” Ellingson said.

While the team is in Florida, they also focus on weight lifting after the swim practices, Ellingson said.

Kirner emphasized that the team must make time and create the effort to sustain them through GLIACs.

“If they are unable to keep up with the demands necessary over break, then the season for them individually will fall far short of expectations,” Kirner said.