The Mills College swim team has swept up awards for character in the last five years—graciously, of course.
“I think part of it is because we have more systemic service setup in place for the team,” said swim coach Neil Virtue. “It’s sustainability with focusing on giving back every year.”
The team’s involvement in community service includes hosting the Swim a Mile fundraiser for cancer research and participating annually in helping to renovate Shepherd Canyon park in Oakland.
The Mills swimmers received their award at a closing ceremony at the Olympic-size pool on Mar. 5. The five fastest swimmers attended the swimming competition in Kansas City, MO from Mar. 2 to Mar. 5 along with, Virtue and assistant coach Merritt Lander.
The award highlights five pillars of character: respect, leadership, integrity, sportsmanship and responsibility. According to the NAIA website, “Award winners will be selected based upon their documented display of exemplary character and sportsmanship on the field, on campus, and in the community.”
“It’s cool to see Mills recognized for what Mills does best,” said Lindsay Tice, referring to the team’s commitment to community service.
In addition to being acknowledged for community outreach, the swimmers also took home a new school record for the 200 yard freestyle relay, clocking in at 1 minute 49 seconds.
“This was the fastest group of four people who have ever entered the gates of Mills,” Virtue said of the freestyle relay.
But speed wasn’t the only thing on the swimmers’ minds. According to Mercado, the team also brought a lot of comedy to their events.
“There was a lot of laughter,” she said. “Nationals really gave us that chance to bond.”
Virtue said that keeping things light helps with nerves during a competition.
“You see it all: people who are super nervous, people who have worked all year to be there,” he said, noting that maintaining composure in a stressful environment can be challenging but that this year’s team really “stepped up.”
Sometimes, it’s the little things that really amp up a team. For the Cyclone swimmers it was their new swimsuits they got specifically for nationals.
The racing suits are the “best out of what is allowed,” Mercado said. They cover the swimmer down to the knees and have regular swimsuit straps, making the swimmer more streamlined in the water.
“It was really exciting to wear them,” Tice said. “They made me feel like a real serious swimmer.”
Being a part of the swim team also lends each swimmer a sense of family and belonging, which can be hard to find in a life filled with school and work, according to Mercado.
“I don’t think I would like Mills without this sense of belonging,” Mercado said. “These are my girls, my team.”
Events & times
200 Yard Medley Relay: 2:05.07
200 Yard Freestyle Relay: 1:49.52
100 Yard Butterfly: 1:02.57
400 Yard Freestyle Relay: 4:04.76