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During winter break, the Hillsdale College women’s swim team spent 10 days in Florida training and competing. (Photo: Emily Shallman / Courtesy)

Members of the Hillsdale College women’s swim team spent winter break training in Florida and competing in three meets.   

After training at home for two weeks, the squad spent 10 days in the Sunshine State.  According to freshman Danielle LeBleu, the team spent a lot of time working both in and out of the pool. She added that together the team swam a total of miles equivalent to the distance from Hillsdale to Nashville, Tennessee.   

 “We had doubles almost every day and lifting on top of that,” LeBleu said. “It was a fun, rewarding trip, but it was anything but a relaxing vacation at the beach.”

Senior Emily Shallman said although the trip was difficult, it was an excellent bonding experience for the team, filled with bright moments.

“I loved training outside; we don’t get the opportunity to do that very often in Michigan, so that was pretty cool, especially when we had late practices and the moon was out,” Shallman said. 

Sophomore Anika Ellingson said the team attitude during the entire trip was positive and inspiring.  

“No athlete was left in a slump and it helped uplift all of us during our hardest practices when our motivation sunk and our bodies were exhausted,” Ellingson said.    

In competition, the team made a splash on Jan. 8, defeating California University of Pennsylvania, with a final score of 429.5-339.5. Strong individual performances included first places by both LeBleu and Shallman. 

Head coach Kurt Kirner said he’s proud of his swimmers who have displayed strengths in an array of races, and that the freshmen have come a long way. 

“Some people have been emerging. Let’s just say that,” Kirner said. 

After returning to Hillsdale, the team turned right around and traveled to Canton, Ohio on January 13 to compete against three teams. The Chargers trounced Malone University 151-71 and crushed Urbana University 149-48. Hillsdale tied with Ashland University 111-111.  

During the meet, Shallman took first place in the 200-yard IM race. LeBleu, freshman Taylor Steyer, and sophomore Suzanne DeTar joined Shallman and won the 200-yard free relay race. Sophomore Tiffany Farris placed first in the 100-yard backstroke race, and Ellingson also won the 100-yard breaststroke race. 

The next day, Hillsdale traveled to Ashland for a rematch with the Eagles. This time, the Chargers pulled out a win 123-88. Kirner attributed the victory over Ashland to placing swimmers in their strongest races and adjusting the lineup from the day before. They did, however, lose to the Saginaw Valley State University with a final score 140-91. 

Next Saturday, Jan. 21 the squad will jump back into competition, travelling to Cleveland, Ohio, to take on Ohio Northern University and Case Western Reserve University.