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SMC Swimming: Belles kick off year with MIAA Relays

Peter Steiner | Wednesday, October 10, 2012

After a an eight-month respite, the Belles will dive into their new season a week from Friday when they travel to Grand Rapids, Mich., to compete in the MIAA Relays.

The Belles are looking to improve on last year’s sixth-place conference finish with a strong start at the first conference event of the year.

“[The MIAA Relays] are always kind of a fun meet to kick the season off,” Belles coach Mark Benishek said. “It gets the girls an opportunity to get in that meet atmosphere and be able to get away from the normal practice setting and get a good taste for what the meets are going to be, especially for the first year athletes.

“It’s a great introduction for them to meet the rest of the conference, [and] see what’s currently out there. It’s also great precursor to our dual meet which is coming up the following week.”

In preparation for the start of their season, the Belles have been training for three weeks. In addition to swimming in the evening, the swimmers have also been improving their strength and conditioning out of the pool.

“The girls have been practicing quite well,” Benishek said. “We just finished up our third week of practice last week. They have been doing double practices with strength and conditioning and swimming in the evening. We’ve seen some great progress so far. There have been a lot of surprising swims from the returning athletes as well as some of the freshmen. The team is coming together.”

Five seniors highlight a Belles roster that originates mostly from the Midwest. With the experience of the seniors, the other swimmers have been looking to the five seniors for guidance, Benishek said.

“The core, our five seniors, that we have this year is strong leadership for our team,” Benishek said. “[Senior swimmers] Liz Palmer, Kristyn Gerbeth, Genevieve Spittler, Liz Litke and Ellie Lofton are leading the pack here. I think everybody looks up to them as they’re in their senior year here. I’m looking for them to do some great things.”

Like any team, the Belles are looking improve their conference finish from last year. But because swimming is based on individual performances, Benishek said the swimmers are also focused on setting new personal bests.

“You are always looking to raise the bar from previous years, not only individually, but also from a team aspect,” Benishek said. “From a goal standpoint, I think we are definitely looking to improve in conference. You are always looking to compete with the top three.

“Individually, I want the girls is to break those personal bests and shoot for those NCAA times.”

The Belles will kick off their season Oct. 19 at the MIAA Relays in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Contact Peter Steiner at [email protected]