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Swim team qualifies for nationals in final meet of the season

Photo by Lokemele Davis

They might have lost the battle, but the Mills Cyclones won the war.

On February 11, the Mills swim team fought under the noon heat in a dual meet against California Technical Institute for the last of 20 swim meets this season.

Though CalTech won the home meet, the Mills swimmers achieved their goal of qualifying for nationals, staying below the maximum time the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Nationals uses for the 400-meter freestyle relay: 4 minutes and 12.12 seconds

"The most exciting part was the last relay" said swim team Assistant Coach and Athletic Trainer, Bridget Mansell. "The 400 free relay is a new school record."

The Cyclones' combined time for the 400 freestyle relay was 4 minutes and 4.5 seconds, which is nearly 8 seconds faster than their time of 4 minutes and 12.2 seconds at the California State University East Bay meet two weekends ago.

Participating swimmers in the 400 freestyle relay were senior Sophia Tuttle, who clocked in at 1 minute 3.7 seconds; freshwoman Shayna Elbling, whose time was 59.7 seconds; junior Catherine Stitt, who finished in 1 minute and 0.5 seconds; and sophomore Chrissy Fisher who completed her laps in 1 minute and 0.4 seconds.

Stitt also broke the school record in the 200-meter freestyle, completing it in 2 minutes and 9.3 seconds.

"I think the Mills women kick ass … and water," said freshwoman spectator Jackie Bull.

Dan Safreno, the father of freshwoman Jenny Safreno agreed, "Mills is fulfilling its destiny for greatness."

He supplemented this statement by wearing a T-shirt with his daughter's picture on the back and the words, "Jenny's Dad" on the front.

Participants of the swim team accredit their performance to various factors.

Safreno, a freshwoman at Mills, said, "I probably wouldn't be swimming if it weren't for the team and coaches."

Cyclone Head Coach Neil Virtue said the competition was not about the swimmers' success, but their ability to "challenge themselves and not gauge themselves on whether they win or lose."

Junior Alexi Ueltzen highlighted the everyday challenge of practice.

She said three times a week the practice consists of laps in the water for two hours. Twice a week the swimmers lift weights, run or climb stairs for one hour and then complete the practice with one hour in the pool.

"Practice will help the swim team with nationals because they will be fine-tuning skills … staying in shape and [staying] comfortable in the water," Ueltzen said.

The competition marked the final swim meet for graduating seniors Tuttle, Anna Rainville and Sayaka Omori.

"It was really sad to see the seniors leave," said Safreno. "But it made me want to try harder [at swimming] for them."