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Madeline Breay swims during the 1000 yard freestyle on January 19. (Christian Yiu | Collegian)

The Hillsdale College swimming team claimed its second con­ference title in a row last week at the G‑MAC/MEC Cham­pi­onship. The Chargers accu­mu­lated 1690.5 points over the course of 69 events in four days, beating second-place Findlay with 1464 and third-place UNC Pem­broke with 964.

With eight first-place fin­ishes and countless other swimmers fin­ishing in scoring position, the Chargers proved their fan­tastic depth en route to victory in Canton, Ohio. They also set two new school records, one in the 200 freestyle relay and another in 200 medley relay. 

Head coach Kurt Kirner was named the Women’s Coach of the Year for the third con­sec­utive time, and freshman Cecilia Guadalupi earned the Freshman of the Year award despite an incredibly uncertain season.

“I had a really rough season,” Gau­dalupi said. “I was really skep­tical going in. When I got on the starting block, I was def­i­nitely not feeling as men­tally pre­pared as I wanted.” 

Guadalupi suf­fered two rounds of illness and a broken wrist in the last seven months, leaving her with only about a month and a half of spo­radic training. 

“I’ve been swimming since I was five years old and the coach I grew up with drilled into us having a habit of being men­tally pre­pared,” she said. “I think for all of us freshmen, we had to look to the older girls on the team. We weren’t a part of the winning team last year and we built off their energy.” 

Despite her struggles with illness and ail­ments, Guadalupi per­formed extremely well in the G‑MAC/MEC Cham­pi­onship. She took first in both the 200 and 400 IM races, and was a member of the 200 freestyle relay that also took first. Guadalupi also placed second in the 100 and 200 breast­stroke races. 

Guadalupi was on the 400 medley and 800 freestyle relays as well. In the 400 medley, she teamed up with sophomore Leah Tunney, junior Anna Clark, and sophomore Marie Taylor to finish second in 3:53.95. Tunney and Guadalupi were also members of the 800 freestyle relay with senior Katherine Heeres and freshman Car­oline Holmes, taking second in 7:41.71.

“I am so grateful for all of the lessons swimming has taught me and for all of the rela­tion­ships it has fos­tered,” Heeres said. 

Holmes, who earned two G‑MAC Athlete of the Week awards in her debut season, won the 100 back­stroke with a new per­sonal best of 57.46 seconds. She fin­ished third in the 200 freestyle (1:54.75) and fourth in the 200 IM (2:10.45) as well. 

Holmes was also a member of the record-breaking 200 medley relay team along with junior Taylor Boyle, senior Emma Rao, and Taylor. The Chargers fin­ished in 1:46.27 to take second place. 

Rao com­peted in her final swim season this year, and fin­ished the year with a 200 freestyle relay school record. Rao, Heeres, Taylor, and Guadalupi hold the new record with a time of 1:35.65, beating the pre­vious record by 10 seconds. Rao also had two lifetime and two season bests in her indi­vidual races. 

“Winning G‑MACs was the best pos­sible ending to my career as a com­pet­itive swimmer,” Rao said. “I’m so proud of all of my team­mates for working so hard throughout this very long season. It was so great to see all of our hard work pay off and to bring home another cham­pi­onship title.”

Heeres per­formed well in all of her races, placing third in the 200 back­stroke in 2:06.11. She placed fourth in the 100 back­stroke with a time of 58.78, a season-best time. She was also a member of the 400 freestyle relay that took second place, and the 200 freestyle relay record that took first. 

“Coming to the end of my swimming career is cer­tainly very bit­ter­sweet,” Heeres said. “It’s hard to say goodbye to some­thing that has played such a big role in making me who I am today.”

Along with the relays, Tunney racked up several points in her indi­vidual. In the 1000 freestyle, she took third in 10:37.39 and had three second-place fin­ishes in the 500 freestyle (5:04.64), 200 back­stroke (2:05.68), and 100 back­stroke (57.67).

Taylor com­peted on both teams that broke school records, and also per­formed well in her indi­vidual events. She placed second in the 50 freestyle, and broke 24 seconds for the first time in her career. 

Freshman Amy Mills com­peted in her first G‑MAC cham­pi­onship and had a lifetime best in both the 200 IM (2.12.75) and 200 back­stroke (2.09.72). 

Junior Ste­fanie Walker raced a season best in the 200 but­terfly (2.16.48), 100 but­terfly prelims (59.92), and a lifetime best in the 500 freestyle (5.19.92) and the 1000 freestyle (11.00.06). 

Clark per­formed well in the but­terfly races, taking second in the 200 but­terfly with a time of 2:08.93; and fourth in the 100 but­terfly with a time of 58.17. Clark also swam with the 400 medley relay squad that took second with a time of 3:53.95. 

Sopho­mores Anika Fassett and Madison Pyhel fin­ished fourth and eighth, respec­tively, in the 200 but­terfly with times of 2:11.84 and 2:13.76. Pyhel placed fourth in the 1650 yard freestyle in 17:52.87.

“I’ve been truly blessed to have spent the last four years swimming at Hillsdale with such a great group of girls,” Heeres said. “I’m so proud of each and every one of them for their con­tri­bu­tions to our team and to our second G‑MAC title.”