Two weeks ago, The Mills College Swim Team traveled from the familiar waters of Oakland to tread the waters of Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for the Liberal Arts Championships (LAC).
“Overall, the entire team swam hard and achieved many personal bests, with nearly everyone on the team swimming at least one personal record,” Elese Lebsack, Associate Director of Athletics said.
This was the second time that Mills College has participated in the LAC. There were 12 schools competing at this year’s meet and Mills came in 11th with 92 points.
Three swimmers were at the top of their game: Gabriella Amberchan, Chloe Gonzalez Coyle, and Anna Tai Owens represented Mills College to the absolute best of their ability, according to Lebsack.
Gabriella Amberchan has been swimming since she was five years old, and began competing in high school. She swam competitively for the duration of her high school career and has continued to swim at Mills.
In order to prepare for this tournament, Amberchan focused on perfecting her stroke technique.
“Last semester I focused on trying to perfect my strokes and turns,” Amberchan said. “This semester, our coaches focused the practices around honing our speed and reactivity time, which definitely affected the outcome of our championship meet.”
Chloe Gonzalez Coyle used a similar strategy as she prepared for the championship.
Coyle began swimming competitively when she joined the Mills College Swim Team in September 2012, and used the entire season to prepare for the LAC.
“Since I had never swum competitively I had to do a lot of catch-up,” Coyle said.
Coyle was originally a soccer player and was one of Mills College’s soccer captains in Fall 2011 until she injured her knee. She still wanted to be on a team, and with the support of Natalie Spangler, the Head Athletic Trainer at Mills, Coyle decided to join the swim team after taking Coach Neil Virtue’s swimming class in Spring 2012.
“I started out the season doing every flip turn with only one leg pressing off the wall,” Coyle said. “It has been a long journey. I personally, along with my team, prepared for this tournament by training 15 hours a week at times.”
Coach Virtue also offered opportunity doubles, or “double days” upon returning from winter break, which were two extra swim practices that came close to a distance of 5,000 meters a day.
Anna Tai Owens, along with Amberchan and Coyle, attended each of these double days, showing an immense dedication to the team.
Owens has been swimming for her entire life but began swimming competitively with Mills College two years ago, her first time competing as part of an organized team.
“In order to prepare for the Liberal Arts Championships, I went to as many practices as I could, and at each practice I swam as best as I could,” Owens said. Owens participated in the 500 yard freestyle, the 400 yard Individual Medley (IM), and the 1,650 yard freestyle (also known as The Mile).
Before the LAC meet, Owens had made a few good times, and was excited that she swam her fastest times at the last meets of the season.
“I was very surprised with my results at the meet, especially for the 400 IM,” Owens said. “I dropped time after each time I swam it.”
The overall results of the championship were great, as relayed by each of these Cyclones.
“The results were amazing!” Amberchan said. “I believe everyone dropped time in at least one of their events, while I personally dropped time in all four of the events I swam in, which was exciting.”
Amberchan’s total swim times have progressed and become faster in each race she competed in over the course of the season.
Coyle beat both of her 50 meter and 100 meter freestyle times, dropping each of them down to 32 seconds and 1 minute and 12 seconds, respectively, resulting in swimming her fastest 50 meter and 100 meter freestyle swims of the season.
Owens also made consolation finals for the 400 Individual Medley — meaning that she swam it once in the morning and then again in the evening — in addition to dropping her swim times.
Each of these Cyclones took away a different experience from their time spent with the team, leading up to the LAC.
“I found swimming to be a helpful metaphor for life,” Coyle said. “Even though you are physically exhausted to the point that you cannot feel your body anymore, are gasping for breath, with your heart pounding through your chest, you realize you can overcome it and just keep going. It is an empowering realization. I learned that I could always do another lap and I never gave up.”