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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.