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Swimmers volunteer time and qualify for nationals


The Mills College swim team resumes a successful winter season this semester with the largest number of swimmers qualified for nationals. Not only did they complete a rigorous training week before the spring semester began, but they also managed to squeeze in a community service project on Martin Luther King Junior’s birthday holiday.

The swim team arrived to campus four days earlier then the rest of Mills students to begin a training week consisting of two practices (totaling four rigorous hours) per day for the Cyclones before classes began.

When Head Coach Neil Virtue heard the Obama administration’s presidential call for national community service, he decided the best break from the pool for the athletes was a community service project.

“When I read and heard that there were over a thousand service projects in California alone and over a million people were participating in the service project, I just thought this was the best time to get involved,” said Virtue. After researching available projects online at, Virtue signed up the team for a day of service with the Shepherd’s Canyon Restoration Project, which focused on restoring the trails and area in Shepherd Canyon Park in Oakland.

“It was an unrecognizable dumping area,” explained Virtue. “We mostly removed a lot of leftover concrete chunks, planted native species, like poppies and Echinacea, and removed the invasive species from the trail…it was hard manual labor but you saw real results right away so it was nice and satisfying.”

Senior Jenny Safreno was one of 20 swimmers who participated, along with over a hundred volunteers from the community to assist with the restoration project.

“My group relocated a sign, cleaned it up, and cemented it to the ground. We also cleared fallen bark and a lot of other debris. It was really, really cool,” said Safreno.

Freshmen Cathy Knight agreed that it was an awesome experience.

“You’re doing it as a team so we brought the same team spirit we usually bring to the pool to the community service. It was really great.”

Knight was one of two swimmers to qualify for an individual event for the NAIA national competition in the spring. Besides being committed to community service, the swim team has also been racking up an impressive record for the winter season.

Knight qualified for the 200 yard butterfly, while breaking the Mills record in the process, guaranteeing her a spot at the Nationals which will take place March 5 through March 7 in Missouri.

Other events the team has qualified for include the 200 yard medley relay and the 400 yard medley relay while junior Rachel Griffith qualified in the individual events for 100 yard backstroke, 200 yard backstroke, and the 1650 yard backstroke. The events left to qualify for are freestyle events-200 yard, 400 yard, and 800 yard. The last chance for Cyclones to qualify will take place on campus during the dual meet against CAL State East Bay on Feb. 7. But for the swim team, it’s not just about qualifying times.

“It’s not only focusing on nationals,” maintains Virtue. “Everyone has to focus on themselves as individuals for the team as a whole to reach [its] potential.”

Trefethen Aquatic Center Hours
Lap Swims:
Monday, Wednesday: 7-8:45 a.m.,
12-2 p.m., 5:30-8 p.m.
Tuesday, Thursday:12-2 p.m., 5:30-8 p.m.
Friday: 7-8:45 a.m., 12-2 p.m.
Saturday: 11 a.m. -1:45 p.m.
Sunday: 12-2:45 p.m.

Recreational Swims:
Monday-Thursday: 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Saturday: 11 a.m. -1:45 p.m.
Sunday:12-2:45 p.m.

*Please note: Picture ID required for everyone to use the pool area. Children under the age of 18 must have adult supervision at all times