Ending her senior year with the NCAA Division II Championships, senior Anika Ellingson is now the sixth Hillsdale swimmer since 2014 to achieve All-American status, and her picture will now be showcased in the Roche Sports Complex among the other All-Americans.
Ellingson swam the 100 breastroke and 200 breastroke, finishing in 8th and 22nd, respectively.
“I don’t think I’ll be able to recreate that moment ever,” Ellingson said. “It’s still really surreal that I’m an All-American.”
Head coach Kurt Kirner said he felt good about Ellingson becoming an All-American while going into the events and it would’ve been more surprising if she didn’t win it. Her independent training prepared her for this meet, and with her mentality and focus developed over the years, she was more than ready.
“We gave her so much control and she took all of the preparation and made it into an individual performance objective for her,” Kirner said. “She was really good at doing all the right things and that built her confidence. We just helped along the way.”
For the last few weeks, Ellingson practiced in the mornings as many times as possible to adjust to the racing schedule. Swimming at race pace during her trainings helped her the most, which assisted with better turns and perfecting the smaller details, Ellingson said.
“By the time I actually got to the race, my turns, my tempo, and my pullouts felt really good,” Ellingson said. “I went back to rewatch the livestream and I was like, ‘Wow, my underwater work is really paying off too,’ and everything just seemed to click in both events.”
When Ellingson first came onto the team, she hadn’t achieved much, Kirner said. But each year her performance continually improved, mainly through her own efforts.
“It wasn’t like I gave her a special set of skills; it was just allowing her to work within her own capability to become a better swimmer,” Kirner said. “It’s the self-responsible athletes that are intrinsically motivated.”
Her commitment and dedication will be missed next year Kirner said, and those close to her understood how hard she worked. Through her efforts, Ellingson embraced the sport head-on, reflecting her strong value of the sport, and her example is one to follow.
“It wasn’t just something to feed her ego, she intrinsically embraced the idea and that’s what her teammates need to do. They need that commitment level,” Kirner said. “You like to have athletes finish at the top and that’s what she did.”
Ellingson said she is grateful for the amount of freedom Kirner gives the team during practices, allowing them take on more self-responsibility and self-awareness. Since he only sees what happens on the surface, the team has to tell to Kirner if they feel something is off, and Ellingson said this strong emphasis on communication helped her the most.
“He wants dialogue between the coaches and swimmers,” Ellingson said. “He’s really good about trying to give back feedback and he won’t hover over you if you need to do work. The strong communication has helped me the most.”
As advice for her teammates and swimmers in general, Ellingson said appreciating something in the sport everyday helps with remembering why they’re swimming. It’s a love-hate sport, so it’s a process to learn how to have fun with it, and Ellingson thanks her teammates’ support and positivity for reminding her why she swam.
“I came into loving it, hit a big mental wall, and I had to learn again how to love it,” Ellingson said. “Find something you love about it everyday and use that as your reason.”