Loy Norrix Women’s Swimming and Diving wins 3rd consecutive SMAC championship


Credit: Liam Rutherford

The Loy Norrix swimming and diving team cheers each other on during a meet against rivals Kalamazoo Central

Zach Eldred and Cavan Helms

At the Battle Creek Lakeview pool on Nov. 5, 2022, the women’s swimming and diving team defeated several schools in the region including: Kalamazoo Central, Portage Central, Bridgman and Battle Creek Lakeview, to win their third consecutive Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference (SMAC) title. 

Topping the table with a score of 451, the Knights claimed five gold, two silver and four bronze medals. 

 Freshman Abigail Miliken, who picked up a gold medal in the 50 yard freestyle and a bronze in the 100 yard freestyle, was very excited to win a SMAC championship in her first year on the team. 

“It’s amazing, I could not be more happy!” said Miliken. “You never really know if all your hard work will pay off until the conference, and as it was my first year, I really had no idea, so it was a relief to do so good.”

The win at Lakeview means that Loy Norrix has remained undefeated for what is now three years running. The continuous success can be largely attributed to the team’s hard work and positive attitude. 

“To be successful in swimming we all have to put in hours upon hours of work,” said Miliken. “We also did a lot of team bonding events, which were super-fun and really helped to enforce positive thoughts and a team atmosphere.”

Senior Allie Fried also highlighted how having an early start to the season gave the team members an advantage over the competition.

“Season for us starts in August and we train in a 50 meter pool, over double the size of our competition pool,” said Fried. “This is before the majority of teams start practicing. This puts us at an advantage because it takes about two weeks for your body to adapt to working out in the water. By the time our first competition comes around we are used to it and other teams are not.”

The team success also means that many swimmers achieved individual accolades. Freshman Lilly Mahar, Junior Grace Mahar, senior Norah DeYoung, sophomore Nadia Moore,  freshman Abby Milliken, sophomore Audra Tate, sophomore Eloise Dunfee, senior Wen Wadsworth-Curcuru and junior Kate Suarez were recognized as both All-Conference and All-State swimmers for their individual achievements throughout the season.

It takes a lot of time for a team to become so successful. The athletes have given their all to build up the program, but a good coach helps too. 

Swim coach Paul Mahar has been coaching swimming for 19 years at Loy Norrix and he has been around to see the program become what it is now. 

“It’s taken 19 years for this program to develop, and a lot of folks from swimmers and divers, to parents and coaches have all sacrificed to build the program up,” said Mahar.

The recent success of the Knights has helped the team to believe in themselves and their teammates. The Knights have created an environment that is much more productive for young and upcoming swimmers.

“I think as a program when you start having more success, more athletes and their families start to believe in it and then the program’s philosophy and how we develop as a program gets easier for everyone,” Mahar said.

As the Knights reflect on another successful season, they already begin to prepare for next year. 

“We won the third championship in a row, so I’d say we’re going in pretty set up. But realistically, we keep in contact,” Fried continued, “I’d say about half of the team swims for clubs year round, so they are still in shape for the season next year.”

Swimming for club teams and putting in the work over the off-season ensures that the team will be ready and better than ever come the start of next fall.

“We are the best team in the conference, and I know all of us will work so hard to keep it that way,” concluded Miliken.