Despite end-of-the-semester fatigue and no opportunity to warm up or warm down, the swim team conquered Lewis University 179 – 83 Saturday at the University of Findlay, though it suffered a 175 – 87 loss to the hosting team.
As the Chargers sized up Findlay’s competition in anticipation of the February G-MAC championships, the swimmers placed first, second, or third 15 times in total.
“Findlay is definitely a tough competitor, and they certainly had the advantage this past weekend, but if we keep working, I think we’ll be set up for a good competition in February,” freshman Katherine Heeres said.
“Everyone’s tired, but we really targeted toughness this past meet and fighting through challenging events,” Kirner said in an email.
Sophomore Danielle Lebleu and freshmen Hannah Wilkens and Heeres swam with the grit their coach encourages, according to Kirner. Lebleu won the 1000 freestyle in 10:53.63 with Wilkens just behind her in second place with 11:02.85. Wilkens pushed ahead for second in the 500 freestyle with 5:20.26 and Lebleu chased her for third place at 5:25.19.
“With long swims like the 1000 and the 1650, I usually just try to get into a rhythm early on in the race, and hold onto that pace,” Lebleu said. “That usually makes it go by faster, especially if you have a song stuck in your head.”
Kirner called Heeres’ performance in her first collegiate 200 backstroke “spectacular,” as she finished second by a tenth of a second at 2:09.87, only seconds behind her best time.
“It’s a pretty great feeling to be only a couple of seconds away from a best time the first time you swim an event during the season, especially when you’re as tired as I was,” Heeres said.
Heeres also placed second in the 200 free at 1:59.95 and in the 200 IM at 2:16.11.
The team’s juniors brought strong competition to the meet as a group. Junior Anika Ellingson came in second on both the 100 breaststroke in 1:06.32 and the 200 breaststroke in 2:26.48. Junior Grace Houghton’s 2:14.54 200 butterfly took second place and junior Suzanne DeTar finished third in the 100 freestyle at 54.94 and the 50 freestyle at 25.15.
“The juniors have for the past couple seasons have been at the center of our core strengths as a team,” head coach Kurt Kirner said. “They are developing into the type of leaders we need to depend upon to succeed in the new conference.”
Both Lebleu and Heeres said they thought the meet went well despite the circumstances — tough practices and the pre-Thanksgiving push of academics had worn out the swimmers, and they arrived at Findlay to find out no pool for warm ups and cool downs would be available.
“Warm up and warm down is crucial to swimming. It allows you to recover after races and get rid of the lactic acid building up in your muscles,” Lebleu said. “Warm up also helps with getting your heart rate up before going behind the blocks which helps with racing as well. Without it, we experienced more fatigue than we would have otherwise between races.”
The swimmers will get a chance to recover, rest, and reenergize in the coming weeks as the team transitions into championship mode, according to Kirner.
“The next two meets are our mid-season showcase events that feature a championship format as we incorporate a moderate rest to enable us to establish season and possibly lifetime-best times,” he said.