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Cyclone swimmers go to Liberal Arts College Championships in Iowa

This photo was previously taken at another swim meet. (MONIKA SABIC)
This photo was previously taken at another swim meet. (MONIKA SABIC)

The Mills Swim Team traveled across the country to compete in the Liberal Arts College Championships (LAC) at Coley College in Iowa. Despite the negative 13 degree weather, the team was motivated and prepared to compete against 10 other East Coast colleges in their biggest meet of the season.

The team ranked 11th place out of 11 in their five-day tournament from Feb. 11 to 15. Each swimmer raced in roughly five events each, like the 100 free-fly race and the relays.  Their day at the pool started from 8 in the morning until around 12, had a lunch break and then swam again until 9 PM.

“It is such a unique experience, traveling for five days and being together so tightly,”  Head Coach Neil Virtue said. “They give us a bleacher space. There is not a whole lot of room; you are in this pool and there is all sorts of cheering; the noise is kind of constant.”

Junior Mara Harwood recalls how busy the tournament was. Being the only college from the West Coast, Harwood and her team spent the majority of their trip either traveling or in the pool.

“It is just really eat, sleep, swim … swim more,” Harwood said.

The tournament was held indoors during the cold weather. Virtue mentioned the possibility of swimmers’ hair freezing if they stayed out in the cold weather for too long.  

Many of the Cyclone swimmers broke their own personal records. Senior Gaby Amberchan was able to drop 30 seconds in her mile event as well as placed on Mills’ top ten records list for her 400 individual medley race.

“I am so happy on how the season ended,” Amberchan said. “My 400 IM was my first time and it went better than I expected”.

Out of the 11 teams competing, Mills had the smallest team with eight swimmers. Other competing schools, like first place winner Luther College in Iowa, had 24 swimmers. Regardless of the different team sizes, Virtue wanted the team to focus on controlling their individual improvements.

“As far as place wise, we didn’t really improve, but we worked out what we can control to improve which is our own effort and attitude,” Virtue said.

Dani Sherman, junior, made it her job to get her teammates excited for the big meet.  According to Sherman, the team would be on the sides of the pool, cheering on fellow swimmers during the events.

“Half of our team had never been to champs before, and you couldn’t even tell,” Sherman said. “We were the loudest team there, even though we were way smaller than everybody”.

Since it was Valentine’s Day during the tournament, the team bonded by making valentine cards and passing them out to competing schools.  The team fostered new memories and friendships with each other while they watched other swimmers and as they warmed up together between events.

“The meet is every emotion you can imagine,” Virtue said. Everywhere you look, there is an emotion happening. It is really rich.”

Now that the swim season is over, the team members are excited to finally have extra time to focus on school or relax. As the swimmers adjust into their new schedules without swim training, they still find it hard not being around each other.

“With the team we definitely grew closer instead, and its kind of weird not having the season going on,” Harwood said.

Virtue has begun recruiting and keeping in touch with incoming students who are interested in swimming. He believes that if these incoming athletes decide to attend Mills and swim, the team will have a lot of potential for the upcoming season and the next LAC Championships.

“Now I’m trying to keep in touch with them and encourage to make a decision that works for them,” Virtue said. “Hopefully that’s Mills, but ultimately I really want people to come here.”