Sometimes it all comes down to one competition.
The incentive for any athlete to work hard and achieve her goals may range from improving her personal best time to beating a constant competitor, but for the Mills College 200-yard freestyle swimming relay team, it all came down to one, single meet.
For the last three years, Mills swimmers have looked toward the NAIA National Swimming and Diving Championships as the true ending to their season. knowing that only the fastest, most dedicated swimmers would make it. Many talented, determined athletes would try and barely miss the qualifying mark.
This year, senior Alexi Ueltzen, sophomore Jessica Embree, sophomore Helene Kelly-Isham and freshwoman Sachiko Hakuta made it.
This season marked the fourth time that Mills swimming had made an appearance at the national meet and their third year in a row to do so.
The meet was held in San Antonio, Texas, from Feb. 28 through March 3. To qualify for nationals, the team had to get an entry time of 1:55.39 or faster, with each leg of the relay swimming 50 meters for a total of 200 meters.
During the final weeks of the season, the team swam 1:55.27 to qualify for the meet and then cut another two seconds off their time three weeks later at the national meet for a time of 1:53.28 and an 18th place finish.
“The relay team dropped two seconds and qualified for Nationals at the last possible chance of the season,” said Head Swim Coach Neil Virtue.
“To turn around three weeks later and drop two more seconds [at Nationals] was amazing. The group had fun and focused on doing their best at Nationals, and it was fun to watch.” In addition to improving their time and placing 18th in the nation, members of the swimming team were recognized for their excellence as student-athletes.
Jessica Embree was presented with the Champion of Character Award, which goes to the team member who exemplifies character (as defined by the NAIA). Alexi Ueltzen won the NAIA Scholar Athlete Award, which goes to a junior or senior who has a GPA of 3.5 or better and qualifies for Nationals.
Congratulations to the Mills College swimming team for once again making it to the national level and showing your competition and fans just how inspiring Mills women can be!