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SMC Swimming: Belles finish conference contest

Richard Hidy | Tuesday, February 19, 2013

After four months of training and competing, Saint Mary’s ended its season with strong individual performances in the marathon-like MIAA championships last Wednesday through Saturday.

The four-day conference tournament included multiple races that can weigh heavily on the energy levels of the competitors, but the Belles stayed together with their small, tight-knit group, even though they finished last out of the seven teams in the MIAA conference.

The tournament, held in Jenison, Mich., was won by Calvin College with a score of 802.5, followed by Hope College and Kalamazoo College at 764.5 points and 569.5 points, respectively. Saint Mary’s tallied 224.5 points after notable performances by senior Ellie Watson, freshman Carolyn Neville and sophomore Anna Nolan.

“The team held strong all the way through,” Belles coach Mark Benishek said. “We are one of the smallest teams out of all the competitors here so we feel like we were able to perform at a high level.”

Watson earned seventh place in her second session of the 200-yard butterfly with a time of 2:17.03, after recording the event’s third fastest time in Saint Mary’s history of 2:14.56 earlier in the day.

Neville and Nolan finished ninth and 14th, respectively, in the 100-yard freestyle, and Neville’s time of 54.72 was less than three-tenths of a second away from breaking the school’s record for that event. 

Freshman Andrea Canacci became the first Belle diver in three years to earn points in the MIAA championships, finishing 14th in the 1-meter diving event.

“Ninety percent of our team made it back to these finals which was great,” Benishek said. “With our quality times throughout the long weekend, we were able to stay motivated and get amped up heading into the next round of events.”

Not only was the meet a great swimming experience for young athletes like Neville and Nolan, among others, but it was also a memorable way to cap off the collegiate careers of seniors such as Watson and Liz Palmer.

The program returns nine swimmers to its roster next season after this year’s team featured seven freshmen.

Contact Richard Hidy at rhidy@nd.edu