When sophomore Bailey Bick­er­staff asked her fellow swimmers to bow their heads Wednesday, she ushered her team­mates into a moment of calm reflection just before the Chargers began to compete at the G‑MAC-Mount East Swimming & Diving Cham­pi­onships for the first time ever.

Bick­er­staff ended her prayer and the Chargers jumped into a four-day meet at the C.T. Branin Nata­torium in Canton, Ohio, where they fought hard for a 1,323-point, second-place finish.

“The meet was charged. Our team was excited — we were ready to go,” Bick­er­staff said. “It was also very purpose-driven meet.”

Bick­er­staff said head coach Kurt Kirner and assistant coach Zoe Hopkins had pre­pared their swimmers to greet pre-swim nerves with mind­fulness, a com­posure cul­ti­vated for the team as she prayed over them before the meet. This poise carried the swimmers through the meet as the Chargers faced nine other teams, dom­i­nating all but the Uni­versity of Findlay, which won first place with 1,973 points. Malone Uni­versity fin­ished well behind Hillsdale in third place with 953.5 points.

“The meet was more com­pet­itive than I had antic­i­pated, as the G‑MAC has some quality ath­letes,” Kirner said. “Mountain East pro­vided some awesome com­pe­tition, espe­cially Fairmont State Uni­versity and West Vir­ginia Wes­leyan College.”

Junior Anika Ellingson started the meet out strong on Wednesday with a lifetime best in the 200 IM for fourth place at 2:08.91. Heeres touched the wall soon after, earning a sixth-place spot on the podium with a season-best 2:10.92. Sophomore Lizzie Leathers placed eigh­teenth at 2:23.77, a lifetime best time for her.

Later that evening, Ellingson, sophomore Allie Matti, sophomore Catherine Voisin, and freshman Emma Rao took a second-place finish in the 200 medley relay.

Thursday, three Chargers shone in the 400 IM. Freshman Hannah Wilkens carved her way to fifth place in 4:44.37. Ellingson snagged seventh place with a lifetime-best time of 4:46.5. Senior Theresa Smith powered into four­teenth place in 4:57.86, a season best.

The 100 but­terfly brought Hillsdale glory seven times over. Voisin took fifth in 58.30. Bick­er­staff, junior Tiffany Farris, and senior Peyton Bowen boxed out ninth, 10th, and 11th places in 59.20, 1:00.21, and 1:00.42, respec­tively. Bick­er­staff and Farris’ times were lifetime bests, while Bowen’s was season-best. Leathers came in four­teenth at 1:02.52, Rao in twenty-first at 1:04.62, and sophomore Taylor Steyer at 1:04.91.

Heeres won bronze in the 200 freestyle with a lifetime-best time of 1:54.09, edging within a second of the school record.

“Coach and I were on the line about whether I was going to swim the 200 freestyle on the second day of the meet. I hate the 200 free because I’ve never known how to swim it, but I had done it at almost every meet this year and I felt good about it,” Heeres said. “I was pretty close to the school record on that one too, which was totally sur­prising. I just wasn’t expecting it.”

Hillsdale relayers repeated their second-place finish when Matti, Ellingson, Voisin, and Heeres swam the 400 medley relay in 3:54.99.

Ellingson swiped the silver medal in the 100 breast­stroke on Friday with a 1:02.97, a time which will most likely qualify her to proceed to the national com­pe­tition in March.

“That race sets me up in a really good spot for nationals,” Ellingson said. “I was dis­ap­pointed that I didn’t win, but I knew it was going to be tough com­pe­tition.”

Sophomore Vic­toria Addis, Rao, and Smith fol­lowed Ellingson into seventh, 19th, and 21st places in the 100 breast­stroke with respective times of 1:08.38, 1:13.42, and 1:16.06. Rao earned a lifetime-best time while Smith swam a season-best.

Heeres scored another third-place when she swam the 100 back­stroke in 58.40. Matti took the podium with a seventh-place, 1:00.13 swim. Bick­er­staff was just behind in eleventh with 1:01.99, fol­lowed by freshman Mary Vita in 14th with a season-best 1:02.67. Rao and Smith took 19th and 21st place, Rao with a season-best 1:13.42 and Smith with a season-best 1:16.06.

Peyton Bowen achieves season best time, coming in 9th place in the 100 but­terfly at Con­ference on Thursday Feb. 15th. Brad Heeres | Courtesy