The Mills College swim team broke numerous records and placed in the top eight in many events at the Liberal Arts Championships (LAC’s)
On Feb. 10, the Mills College swim team left for Elsah, Illinois, to compete in the 2016 LAC’s. The LAC is an annual swim and dive competition that alternates locations between Principia College in Illinois, and Coe College in Iowa. Mills College has been competing in the LAC for six years. This year, the swim team broke eight school records, placed in the top eight in many events and placed eighth overall in women’s swim.
Second year Melissa Berkay made Mills history for being the first member of Coach Neil Virtue’s swim team to be qualified to compete in the NCAA’s competition.
Berkay will be the only member on the swim team that will continue to train for the NCAA’s with Virtue. She is participating in the “taper and shave” ritual, where she will be tapering down the volume of her training and growing out her body hair to shave right before the meet.
Six medals were given out to the Mills swim team, and Berkay was awarded three for placing second in the 200 individual medley, second in the 100 butterfly, and first in the 200 butterfly. She broke the pool record, school record, the LAC’s meet record and made the NCAA’s division cut.
The whole team celebrated whenever a member broke a record or placed in the top eight. Junior Macie Lopez helped set a new school relay record in the 400 freestyle that uplifted the whole team.
“One of the relays I was on placed in the top eight and we broke our school record,” Lopez said. “It was really exciting for all of us.”
The competition lasted three days, each day jam-packed with swimming. Each swimmer swam three individual events, but could swim up to four relays. By the third day, first year Morgan Leishman was exhausted, but she pushed through knowing that she had to perform well for her team.
Among the eight new school records were six individual records and two relay records. Leishman placed in the top eight in three of her events, earning three medals, and surprising the teams that didn’t think Mills had it in them.
“They [other schools] think of us as a joke because we’re a really small school and we don’t have a men’s team. People from Mills don’t usually make the top eight,” Leishman said. “People were pretty surprised when we were getting first, second and third.”
As records were broken and medals were won, Virtue was getting excited. He was proud of the hard work his team had put into their training all season long and the accomplishments they were making in the competition.
“It really shows that sports can happen here at a competitive level,” Virtue said. “It’s great to get Mills’ name out into the discussion and the dialogue. Hopefully it’ll keep people excited that sports here at Mills are viable options.”
With all of the excitement that weekend, between breaking records and winning medals, Virtue was very proud of his team and the way they supported each other. His favorite part of the weekend was being a part of this fun, proud and supportive team.
“That’s been one staple in my 14 years here; they’re just super supportive of each other,” Virtue said. “The bonding that happens is like nothing else. It is a really special experience and I was honored to share it with them.”