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Lily Gouin
Lily Gouin
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Hi! My name is Lily Gouin I am in my third year here at NMU. I am from Appleton, WI majoring in communications and double minoring in multimedia journalism and public relations. In my free time, I like...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Campus Cinema hosts Barbenheimer double feature
Campus Cinema hosts 'Barbenheimer' double feature
Abigail FaixDecember 3, 2023

Women’s Swim and Dive team wins GLIAC championship for first time in 18 years


For 18 years, the NMU Swim and Dive team had to watch another competitor jump into the pool in celebration of winning the GLIAC Championship meet. But this year, the women Wildcats were crowned champions for the first time since 2002. 

The 400-yard freestyle relay concluded the marathon of the four-day meet with high energy buzzing from the crowd. The team of senior Rachel Helm, juniors Margaret Vaitkus and Lena Soulas and freshman Michaela Nelson finished in second place with a time of 3:27.17.This year’s senior class had been close to a conference title for the past three years, finishing in third each time. 

“I’m a senior and a captain, and we’ve always been almost there. There’s always been just a chance for us to win every year that we’ve competed there, and to finally get the trophy, to finally jump into the pool together at the end, we’re getting championship rings, and we got free t-shirts,” senior dive captain Jamie Kimble said. “It has never been us that have done that, and it feels amazing to finally be on top.”

Not only did NMU’s seniors finally get to experience the feeling of winning, but it was the first senior class in 18 years to take home the hardware. The long drought certainly didn’t go unnoticed by senior Rachel Helm.

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“I can’t even describe it, it was such an amazing feeling knowing that it has been so long that someone had done this, and it happened to be my senior year that we finally did it,” she said. “It was such a big thing. It’s very overwhelming.”

The ‘Cats finished with 927.5 points, followed by Wayne State University’s (WSU) 778.5 total for second and Grand Valley State University (GVSU) in third with 767.5. NMU led the meet for all four days, but for the Wildcats, there was a clear message to stay in first.

“We had the lead all four days, and everyday I’m like, “OK, we can’t get too ahead of ourselves, we need to make sure we still put it all on the table, make sure we still aren’t getting beat,” Kimble said.

When facing two successful programs like WSU and GVSU, who have combined for every GLIAC Women’s title since 2006, the Wildcats knew that they were never out of it.

“Day-to-day, honestly, we were just taking it as it comes,” Helm said. “You can’t get excited too early, because literally anything can happen.”

It took a full team effort from the seniors all the way down to the freshman for Head Coach Heidi Voigt’s squad to take home the trophy.

“Our senior leadership was really nice, Jamie Kimble scored on both boards diving, and Rachel Helm won two races and Nicola Pasquire, she was top eight in all of her four events. So, really good senior leadership as a whole that really came together,” Voigt said. “We have a lot of new freshman on the team that weren’t afraid and went in there and really raced some of the top of the country teams in Wayne State and Grand Valley. They just got their hand on the wall.”

The team made having a positive mindset a priority this season, Kimble said. She said it was part of what got the team over that third place barrier, and splashed themselves to first on the podium.

“I think it was a team dynamic, we’ve been looking a lot this year on visualizing success. And making sure that none of us were being negative towards swim and dive, being negative towards a meet, being negative towards our performances,” Kimble said. “Because that’s what starts to bring you down a little bit, it’s a really long season.”

Helm was brought down this season, but it wasn’t due to the negativity of swimming. She was injured, and she thought her career was over. The fact that she was fortunate to race made the weekend worth it in itself for her. The positivity in the pool this season helped guide her through the tough days, she said.

“To be able to even compete was something that I never even thought I would get the chance to do. At one point, I thought I was done, done. So to go and defend two of my titles, not all four, but two of them, was something like I can’t even describe that again. It’s very emotional to be able to say I did it,” Helm said. “I think being surrounded by positive people when you’re injured is hard, it’s up and down. But I think being surrounded by them all time brings you up without even realizing it, which helps a lot.”

As the meet neared the end and results began to roll in, the Wildcats started to realize what was really about to happen. What the senior class has waited their entire careers for, was right in front of them.

“For me, my 200 backstroke, I knew it was going to be my last 200 backstroke ever, with that being my main event. So once that was out of the way, to touch and win that race, was such a relief,” Helm said. “Once it hit me that we had won, I burst into tears. I’ve never felt an emotion like that through a sport.”

Saturday night was full of emotions, the message of keeping it up for four straight days from Voigt had paid off into a big win that was already decided before the final event.

“Right before the last relay on Saturday, I was talking to my coach, and she said that we could get disqualified from this relay and we would still win,” Kimble said. “Me and Nicola Pasquire, another senior, talked about how last year’s graduating seniors didn’t get this. They didn’t get to experience, finally, a win under their belts.”

One thing that stands out about the championship win is the support that the team had. The Men’s team finished in third. However, even when it was clear that it was out of contention, the Men cheered on the Women’s team.

“It was amazing (support), especially on the diving side, the boys were cheering the entire time that the girls were diving. During the swim meet, we were the loudest cheering section there,” Kimble said. “Our boys were really good about stepping up, leading cheers and by the end of the meet, they had their shirts off and were waving them in the air. It was really, really incredible support from them.”

Not only that, NMU Athletic Director Forrest Karr drove downstate to watch the Wildcats win on Saturday night. For senior captains Kimble and Helm, that meant a lot to them. It proved to be another example of how close the NMU community is, they said.

“I honestly feel like this school is such a family, and I think that’s such an important thing, because family’s everything,” Helm said.

With so many freshman winning the GLIAC championship in their first year due to the large senior class from a year ago, Kimble isn’t sure that they understand the excitement of this year’s seniors. But now that they know they’re capable of winning, next year will bring a different feeling.

“Now I think the pressure’s kind of on them now that they know they can win, I think you’re going to see a lot more drive to win in future years from this year’s freshman class,” Kimble said.

That’s the future of the program, but right now, it’s on an 18-year high.

“It’s a good year to be a Wildcat,” Kimble said.

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