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SMC Swimming: Belles set school records in five events

Matt Unger | Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Despite a fifth-place finish at the MIAA championships last weekend, Saint Mary’s left the

three-day event with an upbeat squad due to its peak times and record-setting performances.

The Belles shattered five school records over the three days and junior Audrey Dalrymple earned a NCAA B-cut time in the 200-yard breaststroke, giving her the chance of being invited to the NCAA championships in March.

The results were a marked improvement from the previous season in which the Saint Mary’s squad finished last in the conference.

“The team exceeded all expectations and surpassed both my goals and their goals set at the start of the season,” first-year Belles coach Mark Benishek said.

Dalrymple led the team with her B-cut time of 2:22.31. While swimmers with B-cut times do not receive automatic bids to the NCAA championships, they can fill open spots created if not enough swimmers earn automatic cut times. Dalrymple also set school records with her second-place finish in the 400 individual medley and with a third-place in the 200 individual medley.

Sophomore Ellie Watson shined with a school-best time in the 500 freestyle, in which she finished second while junior Megan Price broke the 200 freestyle record twice, first in the preliminary race and then again, by one second, in the finals.

The Belles final record came in the 400-yard free relay when in which Dalrymple, Price, Watson and sophomore Katie Griffin finished in 3:39.44 for fourth place.

Benishek said he was proud of his team’s accomplishments and was especially impressed with the squad’s changed mentality.

“Ninety percent of these meets are mental, and our team displayed mental toughness to earn [personal and program] best times,” he said. “Our effort became contagious as our swimmers fed off of each other’s success.”

Saint Mary’s stood strong in fourth place throughout the first two days of the event but dropped to fifth on the final day with only 314 points and no diver on its roster to boost the standings. Calvin College finished first in the conference meet with 850 points for its seventh straight championship.

The Belles will only lose senior Jami Nellis to graduation, leaving Benishek optimistic about the program’s future.

“I have great hopes for next year and believe the current swimmers will continue to improve in the offseason,” Benishek said.