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SMC Swimming: Belles compete in first MIAA meet of season

Corey Bernard | Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Belles return from Fall Break having competed in their first league meet of the year, the MIAA Relays, hosted by Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich. on Saturday. While the races were not scored, they served as an important precursor to the upcoming season.

New head coach Mark Benishek may have benefited the most from the preview, as he said he is still learning about the competition in the MIAA.

“I’m new to our conference,” Benishek said. “There seems to be some stronger schools. Calvin, Hope and Kalamazoo seem to be the bigger schools.”

Despite facing these challenges, Benishek thought his team raced well overall.

“They had some strong swims,” Benishek said.

One such strong swim came from the 3X500 freestyle relay team of sophomore Liz Palmer and juniors Audrey Dalrymple and Megan Price. The trio recorded the best finish for Saint Mary’s, finishing fifth overall with a time of 17:15.15.

Benishek said an intense training week that may have worn down his swimmers meant expectations were lower going into Saturday’s meet.

“Coming off this break week we had some pretty hard training,” Benishek said. “The bar wasn’t set too high.”

In addition, Benishek said the meet was run quickly, without much break between events.

“It was a fast meet and there wasn’t as much time between relays,” Benishek said. “I just wanted to see how they did. Some of them surprised me.”

As the regular season gets under way, Benishek will be looking for more of these surprises as the Belles look to improve upon last year’s seventh-place finish in the conference. One reason for improvement this year may lie in an improved team chemistry that Benishek says has been a focal point as the Belles adjust to new leadership.

“The adjustments [have] been good,” Benishek said. “The feedback I got earlier this year to develop more of a team atmosphere — we did a high ropes course which everyone thought was great.”

Benishek says this team bond will aid the team moving forward as they face MIAA competition.

“It absolutely helps, having that competitive edge,” Benishek said of his squad’s unity. “There is a good relationship between our upperclassmen and our new, incoming freshmen and transfers.”

Saint Mary’s begins the dual meet portion of their schedule next Friday against Kalamazoo at the Rolfs Aquatic Center. The races begin at 7 p.m.