The women’s swimming and diving team ended its near perfect season at the national championships March 20 in Minneapolis, Minn., where the team placed 14th out of 71 teams and smashed five women’s records.
“We’re very happy with the result, very excited,” Head Coach Paula Miller said. “It was a great week. We had our ups and downs, but everybody does. Overall, we’re very happy with the result.”
Junior Sheila Rhoades placed third in the nation in the 50-yard freestyle, an event she placed 25th in last year. She set a new team record in the 50-yard freestyle, as well as an association record for the Empire 8 and Upper New York State Collegiate Swimming Association. In the 200-yard freestyle, Rhoades took 11th and set a new association record for the Empire 8 and UNYSCSA. In the 100-yard freestyle, she placed fourth, shattering both team and association records.
“Sheila Rhoades probably had the meet of her life,” Miller said. “It was outstanding.”
The relay teams also performed well at nationals. The 400-yard medley relay team of sophomore Missy Keesler, junior Becca Blazak, freshman Carly Jones and Rhoades took sixth, while the 200-yard medley relay team of Keesler, freshman Madi Sherry, Jones and Rhoades placed 11th.
“I feel if you can equal what you did at state championships and repeat that at nationals, you’re going to do well,” Miller said. “So pretty much with both relays, we were right on the same time. It’s pretty much a rule of thumb that if you can score all your relays, you’ll be in the top 10. So just having two relays score we knew we had to do well.”
In the 400-yard individual medley, Jones placed 24th in the preliminaries.
“Carly did great,” Miller said. “The 400 is basically a relay onto yourself. She was basically a few seconds off of her best time.”
The attitude of the team at nationals was upbeat, yet focused.
“We have the state championship goal, which is to win the state championship [and] Empire 8 and also qualify for nationals. Then, when you get to nationals, sometimes people let their guard down, like they’re just happy to be there. I didn’t see that in this team. I really saw them as, ‘Hey, we’re here and we want to do well. We want to score points. We want to represent Ithaca College.’”
Keesler agreed that the team tried to stay positive.
“As a team, we were probably one of the ones at nationals who dances the most,” Keesler said. “We were always there watching our teammates and cheering the most.”
Looking ahead to next year’s season, Miller has a positive outlook. The team will hopefully be regaining seniors Jen Heberton and Shannon Archer as a graduate students, as well as senior Naomi Mark, who will be a fifth-year senior.
“We really have the same team coming back,” Miller said. “We have balance.”
The team is exceptionally pleased with the performances during its regular season — in which it only lost one meet — and in the postseason at both the state and national championships.
“Overall our hard work paid off incredibly well and it makes me so excited for what we can do next year,” Rhoades said.
Miller is especially proud of the attitude of the team.
“They had the effort, the spirit, the cheering, the focus — they were there to swim and compete,” she said. “I was happy with that.”