Four long days in the pool resulted in a great experience for the Hillsdale College women's swimming team, competing at its first-ever Great Midwest Athletic Conference championship event.
The C.T. Branin Natatorium in Canton, Ohio was the host venue for the conference championships, which was a combined event with programs from the Mountain East Conference.
Hillsdale finished in second place overall, its highest finish in any conference championship event, with 1,323 points. The University of Findlay was the conference champion with 1,973 points. The Chargers finished well ahead of third-place Malone, who scored 953.5 points at the meet. Fairmont State was fourth and was the highest finisher from the Mountain East Conference, while West Virginia Wesleyan finished fifth. A total of 10 women's teams were in action at this year's conference championship.
A day-by-day recap of the Chargers' exploits at the conference meet appears below. Full results and team scores can be found in the links at the top of this release.
The final day of the conference championship started with the longest event - the mile. All Chargers swam lifetime bests in the event. Junior Grace Houghton dropped 41 seconds to get second place (18:05.83). Sophomore Lizzie Leathers placed 14th (19:54.86), and senior Theresa Smith took 19th (20:21.61).
Freshman Katherine Heeres had a great weekend, and broke the 200 backstroke school record with a lifetime best and took the silver medal (2:04.74). Sophomore Allie Matti placed sixth (2:09.47), Bailey Bickerstaff swam a lifetime best for eighth (2:13.07), Tiffany Farris also swam a lifetime best for ninth (2:12.83), and Smith finished off her college swimming career with a season-best and 20th place (2:21.15).
Junior Anika Ellingson had a tough race with two other national breaststrokers in the 200 breaststroke but was still able to take third place and a season-best (2:19.64). Sophomore Victoria Addis won the consolation heat with ninth place and a lifetime best (2:30.12). Senior Peyton Bowen finished off her college swimming career with a season best and 15th place (2:35.94). Sophomore Catherine Voisin also swam a season best for 18th place (2:41.04).
The 400 freestyle relay of. Farris, Vita, Rao, and Heeres finished fourth (3:38.56).
Heeres again earned a bronze medal in the 100 backstroke (58.40), and Matti earned a seventh place podium spot (1:00.13). Bickerstaff took eleventh (1:01.99), Vita was 14th with a season best (1:02.67), Farris 16th (1:03.73), and sophomore Taylor Steyer was 21st (1:04.90).
The 100 breaststroke was one of the most exciting races on the week with the top three swimmers all national qualifiers. Ellingson had a close second earning her a silver medal (1:02.97), and Addis took seventh (1:08.38). Rao swam a lifetime best and finished 19th (1:13.42), and Smith swam a season best for 21st (1:16.06).
The 200 butterfly was the highest-scoring event for the Chargers with all five swimmers making it into the top eight. Houghton lead the way to a silver medal and season best (2:08.09), Voisin took fourth (2:13.03), Bowen with a season best fifth place (2:14.31), Leathers swam a lifetime best (2:16.64), and Bickerstaff with a season best seventh place (2:16.87).
The 800 freestyle relay of Houghton, Wilkens, LeBleu, and Heeres had a strong third place finish (7:49.56).
Two Chargers placed in the top eight in the 400 IM with Wilkens fifth (4:44.37), and Ellingson swam a lifetime best for seventh (4:46.51), and Smith had a strong season best time for fourteenth (4:57.86).
All Charger butterflies scored in the top 24 in the 100 butterfly. Voisin led the way in fifth place (58.30). Bickerstaff won the consolation heat with a lifetime best for ninth place (59.20), Farris took a close tenth and a lifetime best (1:00.21), and Bowen right behind in 11th with a season best (1:00.42). Leathers had a strong 14th place finish (1:02.52), Rao took 21st (1:04.62), and Steyer 22nd (1:04.91).
Heeres won another bronze medal in the 200 freestyle with a lifetime best (1:54.09). Houghton won consolations with a season-best and ninth place (1:57.80), and Vita took 11th (1:59.44), Addis swam a lifetime-best and won her heat for 17th place (2:02.44).
The 400 medley relay of Matti, Ellingson, Voisin, and Heeres had an exciting second place finish (3:54.99).
On Wednesday's first day, LeBleu finished third in the 1000 (10:41.13), while Houghton swam a lifetime best (10:48.26) for fourth place. Wilkens followed in fifth place (10:54.37), Farris swam a season best for 13th (11:14.31), and Voisin had a lifetime best swim for 16th (11:31.47).
Ellingson had a lifetime best by four seconds in the 200 IM for fourth place (2:08.91), while Heeres earned a sixth place podium spot with a season best (2:10.92). Wilkens had a tough line-up with the 200 IM following her 1000 the same evening. She still placed 14th (2:18.11). Bowen had a strong season best and 16th- place finish (2:21.68), and Leathers finished with a lifetime best and 18th place (2:23.77).
The 50 freestyle was a close race but Rao was able to place 11th (25.15), and Vita swam a lifetime best for 12th (25.19), and Addis also swam a lifetime best for 13th (25.35).
The Charger 200 medley relay of Matti, Ellingson, Voisin, and Rao had a strong second place finish (1:48.11).