MARQUETTE, Mich. – The Northern Michigan University Women's Swimming & Diving team posted a long list of accomplishments in a successful 2017-18 season.
As a team they combined to set 11 new school records and five new Peif Pool record. On the national stage, the team won one individual national championship, earned six All-Americans and eight Honorary All-Americans at the NCAA Championships. The 16th place finish nationally is the best finish since the 2013-14 season and their second-best finish since at the 2000-01 season.
They also combined for seven first-place finishes, five second-places, and four third-place finishes at the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championships.
The season started with the Wildcats winning their first 11 dual meets to open the season. They then took second place out of eight teams at the Calvin Invitational in the team's final meet before break.
NMU returned and took second in a four-team meet at the University of West Florida. In the team's final dual meet, they fell to Division I foe University of Wisconsin Green Bay.
The squad was led by sophomore Rachel Helm (Newcastle, England/Burnside College) who captured the 200-yard backstroke for her second NCAA National Championship. She also earned three All-American honors and two Honorary All-American Honors at the NCAA's. The GLIAC Swimmer of the Year, she took home four individual titles, was part of a winning relay team, and took second in two other relays at the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championships. She started the year being named the season's first GLIAC Female Athlete of the Year and broke her own 200 back record, setting a new mark of 1:56.38.
Freshman Gabriella Spajic (New South Wales, Australia/De La Salle Catholic College Cronulla) also earned Female Athlete of the Week distinction. Spajic continued her season's success with three second-place finishes at the GLIAC Championships and earned Honorary All-American honors in the 1,650-yard freestyle. Spajic also now owns the school's 200-yard butterfly record, 2:02.27, and the 400-yard individual medley record, 4:25.04.
The individual honors continued with freshman Lena Soulas (London, England/Woodhouse College) receiving GLIAC Female Athlete of the Week as well. Posting a victory in the 100-yard freestyle at the GLIAC Championships, she added a second-place finish in the 200-yard freestyle, helped two relays to second place finishes and a third-place finish in the 400-yard medley relay. At the NCAA Championships, she helped the 400-yard medley relay earn Honorary All-American status.
Junior Angela Probstfeld (White Lake, Mich./Lakeland) also earned weekly honors from the GLIAC, but injuries prevented her from scoring at the GLIAC Championships and from participating at the NCAA's, despite qualifying early in the season. Before her injury, she was able to set new diving records, setting the school and Peif Pool record in the one-meter 11 dives, three-meter six dives, and the three-meter 11 dives. Her record in the one-meter six dive event broke a record that had originally been set in 1988.
Sophomore Jamie Kimble (Prior Lake, Minn.) stepped up and posted an Honorary All-American award in the women's three-meter dive at the NCAA Championships.
Junior Regan Kilburn (Muscatine, Iowa) was a large factor in the team's relay successes. Kilburn aided a first and two third-place relays at the GLIAC's, then followed it with helping the 200-yard medley relay earn All-American honors and joined Soulas in the 400-yard medley relay. Individually, she earned recognition in both meets in the 100-yard backstroke. She also broke her own school record by posting a new record time of 25.67 in the 50-yard backstroke
Sophomore Madelyn Irelan (Owosso, Mich.) and freshman Margaret Vaitkus (Munster, Ind.) made impacts, aiding the 200-yard medley relay to All-American status at the NCAA's, and the same relay to a first-place at the GLIAC's. Vaitkus also joined two other relays to top three honors at the GLIAC Championships.
Junior Dana Stroven (Howell, Mich./Hartland) was a key member of the 400-yard medley relay while senior Hannah Crump (Grand Rapids, Mich./Northview) assisted the 400-yard freestyle relay to second-place at the GLIAC's. Junior Becca Arakelian (Livonia, Mich./Livonia Stevenson) took third at the GLIAC Championships in the 50-yard freestyle and helped the 800-yard freestyle to second place.
Freshman Katharina Springhetti (Tramin, Italy/Auerora Specialized Secondary School for Economic Field) joined the team in January and captured first in the GLIAC's 200-yard breaststroke.
Juniors Samantha Dickie (Canton, Mich./Mercy) and Sara Foucault (Whitewater, Wis.) and freshman Cassandra Clark (Newport News, R.I.) helped relays place third in separate events at the GLIAC Championships to assist the NMU effort this season.
The women's team also saw four relay records fall this year. Kilburn, Helm, Irelan and Vaitkus posted a new 200-yard medley relay time of 1:42.46. Kilburn Stroven, Helm and Soulas also set a new record of 3:45.20 in the 400-yard medley relay. The team of Soulas, sophomore Victoria Reese (Lombard, Ill./Glenbard South), Kilburn and Helm broke a record held since 1992 in the 200-yard freestyle relay with their time of 1:34.07. The 800-yard freestyle relay team of Helm, Spajic, Crump, and Soulas also broke a 1992 record and have posted a new time of 7:29.91.
The young team looks to build on the successes from this season as they are expected to return all but one athlete to next year's squad. With the addition of some young talent coming in, next year's season will look to compete for the GLIAC Championship and a top finish at the NCAA's.