The swim team broke school records when they went to St. Charles, Missouri on March 2-5 for the 2005 NAIA National Swimming and Diving Championships.
One of the highlights was when Alexi Ueltzen, Erin Lucas, Chrissy Fisher and Sophia Tuttle, who competed in the 200 freestyle relay, finished with the fastest time in Mills history (1:53:36).
Fisher, a sophomore, also broke two school records in the 100 breast stroke and 200 breast stroke.
Fisher was close to qualifying for finals, and said “it was very disappointing [that I didn’t qualify, but] it just fuels me for working harder through the summer and next year, because I do plan on coming back.”
Neil Virtue, the team’s coach, said, “you can’t ask for much more than doing better than you were before… the key is to stay grounded and enjoy it, and feel good about accomplishing that.”
This competition was a new and much larger experience for the team, because they were competing against the 18 other schools that qualified for the competition, rather than dual meets, where the range of ability is much broader.
Swimmers also pointed out that Mills was one of the few schools represented that do not provide scholarships to swimmers. They reasoned that this was a factor in their competition with experienced players.
“This year, the times are really fast, and to see Mills here I think speaks a lot to how hard the girls worked to get here,” said Bridget Mansell, assistant swim coach and athletic trainer.
Sophia Tuttle also won the 2005 Daktronics-NAIA All-America Scholar-Athlete award, which is given to juniors who meet an NAIA Qualifying Standard Mark and have a GPA of 3.5 or above.
Aside from breaking records and winning awards, Mills swimmers all felt that just being a part of the event was a great experience.
Describing the marquee that displayed each school and its rank, Erin Lucas said, “the coolest thing was to see Mills up there with all these other impressive schools.”
Fisher agreed that “it was exciting to see the fastest swimmers, and it was just fun to share the pool with them.”
Players also said that the experience was worthwhile despite the tough competition.
“It was a blast…we were really lucky to be there. [Neil and Bridget] work so hard that for us to be there speaks to their abilities as well.”
“I’ve had lots of fun this season, we laugh a lot,” Virtue said. “They put in a lot of energy, a lot of work, a lot of focus, a lot of time, and a lot of commitment, and it’s nice to see the benefits of that.”