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Swim team takes it to the championships

The swim team warms up in the Mills College pool. (All photos by Natalie Meier.)

As the 2012-2013 swim season practices come to a close this week, the Mills Cyclones are gearing up for their final meet held at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The Liberal Arts College Championship was founded several years ago by a group of liberal arts colleges in the Midwest, who, like Mills, were not close enough to other campuses to compete in championship events.

Mills swim coach Neil Virtue has the team on a vigorous training schedule in preparation for Feb. 14, when they will travel to Iowa and compete against over 400 other liberal arts colleges.

Virtue said the competition is a three-day meet that consists of morning preliminaries and evening finals. Teams that finish with the 16 fastest times in the preliminaries will swim in the finals.

Although the team is encouraged to attempt to place with other teams, Virtue’s main mantra is for the team to focus on perfecting their strokes and achieving their absolute best times.

“The way we’re going is to focus on the control variables, which are your attitude and your effort, not allowing the other people to take your focus away from what you’re there to do,” Virtue said. “I really feel like it’s about those personal achievements and milestones, and if that means we end up scoring this many points, great, but if it doesn’t, it doesn’t take away from the experience.”

First year Cahaela Class is both excited and nervous about stepping into the role of lead backstroker for the championship meet.

“Unfortunately, we lost our main backstroker, so I’m supposed to step up, which is kind of scary because it’s my first year,” Class said. “But I’m excited, and I want to break my time, which I already took seconds off of at the last meet in Los Angeles.”

To prepare for the championship, the swim team traveled to Los Angeles for a few practice meets after a week of training on campus, where they swam a morning and afternoon practice each day.

“It ended up being that we were swimming just over four miles every day, and doing some dry limb work outs, working on core, stability, reaction time, and explosiveness,” Virtue said. “We were doing some visualization and had a theme talk every day; one day we talked about enthusiasm, another day we talked about courage, and we went out to dinner as a team.”

Senior Hannah Riley, a breaststroker for two years, is looking at the championship meet as an opportunity to improve her skills in the water and hopefully achieve a personal best time.

“There is always something new you can perfect or practice because it’s all about knowing your body better and knowing how to move through the water more efficiently and effectively,” Riley said.

A typical day at the championship meet looks like this: a swimmer rises early and begins warm-ups a 8 a.m. The meet itself begins at 10 a.m. and ends around 1 p.m., when the team will have a few hours of down time. At 4:30 p.m., they regroup to begin warm-ups for finals. Finals end at 9 p.m., when the team has dinner and goes to bed. The next morning, they get up and do it all over again.

“There are schools from all different states, and the schools are bigger than ours, which can be kind of intimidating, but at the same time, it’s awesome that we get to be a part of it,” Riley said. “If we place anywhere, that’s a feat in itself.”