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.”