Women’s swim and dive captures GLIAC title, men come in second


GLIAC CHAMPIONS—The NMU women’s swim and dive team celebrates its GLIAC title win last week. Photo courtesy of Izzy McCabe.

Dallas Wiertella, Staff Writer

The Northern Michigan University women’s swim and dive team won its second GLIAC Championship in three years last week after not having won the meet since 2002. The men came up just short with a runner-up finish to Grand Valley State.

Northern faced off against six other teams, and the women took home the trophy with 856.5 points and 55 points ahead of Wayne State. The men’s 585 points fell to Grand Valley’s total of 989. The GLIACs were held this year at Saginaw State University and the competition took place over a period of four days.

During the four-day battle, the Wildcats clawed their way to the top coming into first at the beginning of the last day and bringing it home with performances like swimmer sophomore Pilar Perello-Ferrer taking first in the women’s 100-yard freestyle and freshman swimmer Heidi Billings in the 200-yard backstroke. On the diving side, freshman Abbie Harned scored fourth overall on the 1-meter board. 

The team was held in third place after the first and second day, but inched their way back with encouragement of the seniors who had been conference champions before, NMU coach Heidi Voigt said. 

“It was a culmination of everyone coming together,” Voigt said. “A talented group of returners ready to teach, and young incoming freshmen.” 

Last year the team had only four weeks to train for conference after being shut down. This year, despite a few scattered cases, there was not enough among the team to shut the program down, Voigt said. 

COVID still affected the GLIACs, with spectators being restricted. The team found other ways to bring spirit, they changed the cheering culture of the GLIACS, cheering so much that other teams soon joined in, Billings said. 

“There were swimmers from all teams cheering so loud across all of the bleachers,” Billings said. 

Not only dominating the waters, Billings received both Women’s Freshmen Swimmer of the Year along with GLIACs Player of the Week for the week of the 18th, along with junior Ondrej Zach.

“It’s like the jinx of being on the cover of Sports Illustrated,” Voight said. “[Billings] didn’t want to talk about it, she just kept doing what she did and after the work was done, reaped the rewards.”

As the team returned to practice, they set their sights on nationals hoping to continue the momentum. With athletes like Ondrej Zach and sophomore Roberto Camera taking second in some of their events and sophomore Erikus Kapocius coming just shy of top eight in last year’s nationals, the team looks to improve. 

The women’s team looks to take the stage and bring their conference title to nationals. Along with personal qualifiers, NMU will participate in all five relays at nationals all with the potential to earn a lot of points for the team.