MIDDLEBURY — In the middle of the Northern Lakes Conference field, Plymouth has had to fight tooth-and-nail for two of its three NLC victories this season, and the road didn’t get much easier against a talented field at Thursday’s conference championship prelims.
The Lady Pilgrims were sitting at an even 3-3 in the conference heading into Thursday’s meet after a dominant 109-74 win over NorthWood and close victories against Wawasee and Goshen.
Senior Kenzie Miller earned finals berths in each of her three races, while the Lady Pilgrims grabbed 11 top 16 finishes to grab semifinals cuts to Saturday Northridge Thursday.
“We’ve had some tough meets; we’ve definitely fought,” said Plymouth head girls swim coach Chelsea Bramfeld. “Two of our wins this season have come by one point, which you’ve got to give props to the girls for that: They worked hard until the last relay, which is what it came down to.
“In almost every event we have two girls in the top 16, which means they get to come back and swim on Saturday, so we’re really excited about that. That’s a big achievement to get people in the top 16. We also have two alternates, and just overall tonight, we had a really good swim meet, especially for a Thursday.”
Miller outpaced the field in the 200 Individual Medley and fell just .15 of a second away from the top qualifying spot in the 100 backstroke behind Northridge’s Spencer Chap-pell.
“(The IM) is going to be a really good race on Saturday, said Bramfeld. “The top three are really close, and I know that they’ll all push each other. The 100 backstroke is also going to be a good race on Saturday for Kenzie and Spencer (Chappell). They definitely push each other. When you get to big meets like this, that’s what you get to see, the high-caliber swimmers push each other to get their best times, which is really neat to see.”
Miller’s final cut was earned as an anchor for Plymouth’s third-place 400 free relay squad, where she and teammates Hannah Eads, Kanika Chaisri and Kaley Brower finished out the day on a high note with a 4:00.99 time.
“Our last relay, we placed third and we came in just nine seconds from our seed time, which is great,” Bramfeld said.
“They really pulled it out in the end.”
Plymouth’s best hopes Saturday will be in the backstroke, where Miller will compete in the finals and Eads and Ella Portteus will also vye for points in the semifinals after finishing 12th and 16th, respectively Thursday.
The Pilgrims also stand to grab some points in the 50 free race where Kaley Brower finished 11th and Eads placed 14th at the prelims.
Also Saturday, Katelyn Brown and Megan Senter finished back to back in the 500 free to qualify for Saturday’s semis with respective 14th and 15th-place results, while Brown placed 13th in the 100 breast stroke, Brower and Eads both swam PRs for 11th and 14th, respectively in the 500 free, and Brashere and Lexi Fetters earned dual semifinal cuts in the 100 butterfly with respective finishes in 12th and 16th.
“Kenzie swimming the 200 IM and the 100 backstroke, those are key scoring points, and our 400 free really will be a key scoring point,” said Bramfeld. “But anybody who’s made it into the semifinals or finals, everything contributes to the final result.
Right now, being 3-3 I know the girls are just focused on, you know, the end’s coming up and we’re on a downward hill toward the end of the season. We’re just focused on looking for personal bests in each of of our races and getting out and swimming fast.”
• NORTHERN LAKES CONFERENCE GIRLS SWIM CHAMPIONSHIPS
200 medley relay: 6. Plymouth (Kenzie Miller, Katelyn Brown, Katelynn Brashere, Hannah Eads) 2:06.72; 200 free: 15. Kanika Chaisri 1:21.99; 200 IM: 1. Kenzie Miller 1:05.8; 50 free: 11. Kaley Brower 28.24, 14. Hannah Eads 28.47; 100 fly: 12. Brashere 1:11.25, 16. Lexi Fetters 1:17.91; 100 free: 13. Brower 1:01.65; 500 free: 14. Brown 6:17.61, 15. Megan Senter 6:13.4; 100 back: 2. Miller 57.29, 12. Eads 1:11.84, 16. Ella Portteus 1:17.93; 100 breast: 13. Brown 1:22.32; 400 free relay: 3. Plymouth (Eads, Chaisri, Brower, Miller) 4:00.99.