Charger swim honored seniors Theresa Smith and Peyton Bowen at senior night on Sat­urday. (Photo: Peyton Bowen | Courtesy)

After its Friday evening win and Sat­urday evening split, the swim team had great reason to cel­e­brate more than their points. The swimmers focused all their energy Sat­urday night to honor the team’s two seniors, Peyton Bowen and Theresa Smith.

“Peyton and Theresa have been great sta­bi­lizing forces on the team,” Head coach Kurt Kirner said in an email. “They truly put their team­mates first and are always the most sup­portive duo on the team.”

While Bowen and Smith’s ath­letic com­mitment to the team comes from years of training, their emo­tional support was, perhaps, inspired by the care and comfort their own fam­ilies pro­vided them.

Bowen said she remembers fin­ishing up a junior life­guard training course with a swim around a pier on the shores of Cal­i­fornia. Already a pro­fi­cient swimmer, the little girl knew jumping into the open ocean would do her no harm, but that didn’t change the fact that she had planned to take the big plunge with her dad, whom L.A. rush hour had made late.

“I leapt in the water and started swimming, and soon I felt my dad’s hands on my feet,” Bowen recalled. “He had run into the water to finish the swim with me.”

Smith’s parents both worked for the United States Air Force as pilots, so they nav­i­gated the skies better than the waters. But Smith still tears up at mem­ories she made racing one of her sisters. Four years ago, Smith was com­peting at a meet for her club team as a senior in high school. When she looked at the girl mounting the diving block in her neigh­boring lane, she realized she was swimming against her sister, Clare Smith. Theresa sporting a green suit and Clare one in red, the Smith sisters got to race in the 200 IM three times that year. Theresa won once and Clare out touched her twice. Clare Smith now runs track as a freshman at Bene­dictine College in Kansas.

“Now I’m in blue, but she’s still in red,” Smith said.

The swim team rec­og­nized Bowen and Smith’s lead­ership and devotion when it cel­e­brated them both on Sat­urday night as they com­peted Sat­urday afternoon in Hillsdale’s own McAvoy Nata­torium against Ohio Northern Uni­versity and Case Western Uni­versity. The team beat Ohio Northern 162 to 125 and lost to Case Western Reserve Uni­versity 184 to 107. The day before, the team tri­umphed over Indiana Wes­leyan Uni­versity 121 to 80 and placed first in every event except two.

Junior Grace Houghton cruised ahead of the com­pe­tition in the mile swim at 18:46.66, defeating the other freestylers by a whopping 27 seconds. Houghton said that she had never swam the event before Friday. The G-MAC nom­i­nated Houghton as its Swimmer of the Week after her per­for­mance over the weekend with three spec­tacular wins.

“I broke up the mile into thirds, and then just took it a third at a time. I work well as a back half swimmer, meaning I’ll make my move on the last half when everyone’s getting tired. Or, in this case, I caught up on the second third and held on,” Houghton said. “The second my head was out of the water at the finish, I heard all my team cheering and it was just great.”

Freshman Hannah Wilkens fol­lowed Houghton’s lead and won the 500 freestyle, 16 seconds ahead of her com­pe­tition and clocking in at 5:28.25.

Houghton took another first in the 100 but­terfly at 1:01.87 and Wilkens also won the 200 freestyle at 2:02.17. Freshman Katherine Heeres swiped first place in the 100 back­stroke at 1:02.91. She also headed up the 200 IM at 2:15.85 with Junior Anika Ellingson just behind her in second place at 2:17.86.

Other first place wins included sophomore Vic­toria Addis who ousted com­pe­tition by six seconds in the 100 breas­troke at 1:09.30. The chargers dom­i­nated the 100 back­stroke when sophomore Allie Mattie, sophomore Bailey Bick­er­staff, freshman Mary Vita, and junior Tiffany Farris took first through fourth place.

The chargers returned to McAvoy the fol­lowing evening to wrack up a few more spec­tacular wins.

Ellingson took first in the 100 and 200 breast­stroke at 1:07.05 and 2:29.84. Heeres pulled first place in both the 200 freestyle at 1:59.42 and the 400 IM at 4:48.97. Houghton’s winning streak lasted through Sat­urday as she con­quered the 200 but­terfly in 2:13.15.

Farris fin­ished second in her 1,000-yard freestyle swim — an amazing feat for a sprinter. At 11:38.28, she out touched the third place winner by eight one hun­dredths of a second, knifing through the water to pass her in the final leg of the race.

“On the second-to-last 50 yards, I was so very, very worn down. I could see my coach wanting me to speed up, but I per­sonally didn’t know if I had the energy to do so. I just wanted to glide in to the finish,” Farris said. “On that last 50 yards, I pushed off the wall and I could see the feet of the other girl ahead of me. That com­pet­itive drive that I have kicked in and I decided to go for it.”

Heeres, Ellingson, Houghton, and Vita won the 400 medley relay in 4:03.32. Farris, Addis, Rao, and Vita took second place at 1:44.04 in the 200 freestyle relay.

“I find it really fun to swim more for the team,” Vita said. “In indi­vidual events, you’re still doing it for the team, but it feels a lot more like that when you’re in the relay with other girls.”

As the mid-Feb­ruary G-MAC Cham­pi­onships approaches, Kirner said his swimmers need rest and recovery to prepare.

“So many have had to gear back because of dif­fi­culties phys­i­cally but the great thing is others who nor­mally swim in the back­ground stepped up to provide us with a winning record,” Kirner said.