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Freshman Danielle LeBleu and senior Emily Shallman hug head coach Kurt Kirner after their final 400-free relay race of the season. (Photo: Emily Shallman / Courtesy)

The Hillsdale College women’s swim team took sixth place at the Great Lakes Inter­col­le­giate Ath­letic Con­ference cham­pi­onships on Feb. 8 – 11, at Saginaw Valley State Uni­versity. The Chargers fin­ished sixth out of eight women’s teams, and saw many indi­vidual suc­cesses with new records set.  

Head coach Kurt Kirner said this meet was the fastest he can remember. He added that the team stepped up their per­for­mances, par­tic­u­larly on the third day of the four-day cham­pi­onship.

Sophomore Anika Ellingson made two NCAA B-cut times throughout the weekend’s events. She swam a time of 2:20 in the 200-yard breas­troke, placing her at fourth in the overall times for the meet. On the third day of the con­ference, she broke her own school record in the 100-yard breas­troke with another B-cut time of 1:02.87, giving her fourth place overall in the cham­pi­onship for that event.    

“One of my favorite nights was when I re-broke my 100 breast­stroke record by about half of a second. I had just missed it by .19 in the morning session and knew I would have to give it my all, so finally breaking the 1:03 barrier in my race was such an amaz­ingly sat­is­fying feeling,” Ellingson said. 

Sophomore Suzanne DeTar achieved per­sonal bests in every single one of her indi­vidual races. Her 50-yard freestyle time, also a NCAA B-cut time, placed her as the second fastest in school history. DeTar also broke school records in the 100-yard freestyle race and 100-yard back­stroke race, placing her 4th and 5th respec­tively in school history. 

Freshman Catherine Voisin swam two per­sonal bests in the 100-yard and 200-yard but­terfly races. Her time in the 100-yard race fly made her second-fastest in school history.  

A team con­sisting of sophomore Tiffany Farris, DeTar, Ellingson, and senior Emily Shallman set a school record in the 200-yard IM relay, as well. 

Kirner placed training buddies Shallman and freshman Danielle LeBleu in 500-yard freestyle races, and both swam NCAA B-cut times. Ellingson said watching Shallman and LeBleu perform in the 500-yard freestyle races encouraged her.  

Shallman said her GLIAC expe­rience this year was a good one, albeit  bit­ter­sweet, as it was her last swim meet of her 11-year swim career. Shallman’s favorite moments from the weekend included com­peting in finals, breaking the school record in the 200 medley relay with Ellingson, DeTar, and Farris, and watching senior Mae Bass swim a lifetime best in the 200-yard breas­troke race. 

When Shallman raced the last 50 yards during finals, she said she gave it every­thing to win her heat in her last indi­vidual swim.

“When I fin­ished I was able to look into the stands to see my family and high school swim coach, which was pretty special, and my team­mates and coaches ran over to hug me and Danielle. That race really stands out in my mind and it is some­thing l’ll always remember,” Shallman said.

Every Charger who swam for Hillsdale in the breast­stroke races walked away with a per­sonal best. Freshmen, too, clocked record times. Freshmen Allie Matti and Bailey Bick­er­staff swam per­sonal best times in the 200-yard back­stroke.

“When you see your team­mates improve that much, it makes you want to pick up the torch and take your team that much farther,” Ellingson said.

Senior Kenzi Dickhudt, swam a per­sonal record in her 100-yard breas­troke race, a race she swam for the last time this weekend.  

“I could not be more happy or proud of my final season. I am now a retired swimmer, but am so grateful for last week, not only my own swims, but also my team­mates,” Dickhudt said.  

Ellingson said she loved the atmos­phere of finals. 

“Everyone was so excited for their team­mates even if they didn’t make finals them­selves,” Ellingson said. “Atti­tudes were infec­tious and people would just build off of each other’s energy, espe­cially during the relays at the end of every night.”

Overall, the team agreed the meet was suc­cessful. The end of a chapter for many, and just the beginning for some, this season goes down in the books as a win for the Chargers. Now the team already looks onward to the upcoming changes the new season will bring.  

“Many of our top scorers are returning so the future is very bright as we move into the GMAC next season,” Kirner said.