Yet Rachel Helm Keeps Aiming for More
When Rachel Helm’s head broke the surface of the water, she didn’t know if she had touched the wall fast enough.
A national title in the 100-yard backstroke was on the line, and she waited anxiously for the results to be announced, unsure if she had made history or fallen just short.
“The results took forever to come through,” Helm said. “Then, I realized I had won, and it was just an unbelievable feeling.”
Helm’s winning time was 53.79, a Northern Michigan record. With it, she became the first Wildcat swimmer to be crowned a national champion since Erin Vostad ‘01 in 1999. Between Vostad’s victory in the 100-yard butterfly and Helm’s in her signature event, Northern Michigan had many close calls at the NCAA championships. Most recently, Debbi Lawrence was beaten to the wall in the 50-yard freestyle by less than a second at the 2014 edition.
The close calls only made head coach Heidi Voigt more appreciative of Helm’s accomplishment.
“We’ve had some close calls for sure, and it takes a lot,” Voigt said. “Being at the national championship swim meet, everything has to be perfect, and she just was amazing and did everything right.”
Helm had been amazing throughout her freshman season, and her performance at the GLIAC championships showed that she was more than ready to swim with the best the country had to offer.
There, she took gold in all four individual events she raced: the 100-yard backstroke, 100-yard butterfly, 100-yard freestyle and 200-yard individual medley. She would have won the 200-yard backstroke too, but she swam it as a time trial.
“She’d been really coming on in those last weeks before conference,” Voigt said. “We always knew that Rachel had potential, and we knew this would be a big year.”
And Helm expects next year will be even bigger. Asked what her goals are for her sophomore season, she responded without hesitation.
“Double national champion, 200 back, 100 back,” she said. “If I train my 200 back more, I ought to be double national champion.”
Helm isn’t the only Wildcat ready to have a memorable 2017-18 campaign. Her achievement has motivated her teammates to strive to reach the pinnacle of their sport.
“To have a national champion, I think it’s so inspiring for everyone,” said fellow freshman Nicola Pasquire. “It’s certainly my aim to qualify in individual events next year, to get the All-American honors and then maybe one day even live up to Rachel’s standard. I think she’s really set the bar high.”
100 backstroke (1st, 53.79)
200 backstroke (3rd, 1:57.05)
100 backstroke (1st, 53.82)
100 butterfly (1st, 55:37)
100 freestyle (1st, 50.48)
200 IM (1st, 2:01.17)
800 freestyle relay (3rd, 7:38.57)
ACADEMIC SUCCESS & ATHLETIC EXCELLENCE
- 152 student-athletes named to GLIAC All-Academic and All-Academic Excellence Teams
- 14 Nordic Skiers named to USCSCA All-Academic Team
- 15 hockey players named to WCHA All-Academic Team
Wildcat Athlete Stats
Average GPA of All Wildcats
Wildcats with a Perfect 4.0 In Fall/Winter
% of Wildcats Earned at Least a 3.0
Of 17 Wildcat Teams Produced a 3.0 Or Higher
Average Credit Workload of a Wildcat
Top Five Teams (2016-17 GPA)
WOMEN’S NORDIC SKIING
MEN’S NORDIC SKIING
Taking Ski to School: All-American elite skier holds 4.0 GPA
Adam Martin received the NCAA Skiing Elite 90 award, presented to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative GPA competing at the finals site for each NCAA championship. The recent mathematics and computer science double major graduate boasted a cumulative grade point average of 4.0. He is the first Wildcat to earn this prestigious honor, which was established as the Elite 88 award in 2009–10. He is also a 2016-17 NCAA Division II Academic All-American.
Adam is pictured with head coach
Sten Fjeldheim '86 BS, '93 MAE, at right
A First for the First Line
The Comley Hockey Scholarship was established in honor of Coach Rick Comley '73 MAE and his 26 years of service to NMU Hockey. This donor-funded scholarship was renamed the Comley-Heiskanen Hockey Scholarship to recognize Larry Heiskanen '70 BS, who passed away suddenly in October 2016. Heiskanen worked for many years at Northern Michigan as the director of development for athletics and as an equipment manager for the hockey team.
Rising senior forward Zach Diamantoni is the 2017-18 recipient of the Comley-Heiskanen Hockey Scholarship. He sat down with Northern Magazine to discuss what the scholarship means to him and more.
If you would like to make a gift to support the Comley-Heiskanen Scholarship fund, contact the NMU Foundation at nmu.edu/foundation or 906-227-2627.
The ice surface in the Berry Events Center has been named “Rick Comley Rink." The effort was led by Tom Peters '55 BS, '60 MA and the late Larry Heiskanen. Pictured are Comley, Peters and NMU Director of Athletics Forrest Karr.
A formal dedication ceremony will take place at the Oct. 7 game vs. LSSU, where Comley played and began his collegiate coaching career.
What does it mean to you to be the first recipient of the renamed scholarship?
It is a huge honor. Both Rick Comley and Larry Heiskanen have done so much for the Northern Michigan hockey program so I hope I can repay them by having a positive impact on the program and the community.
You enjoyed a breakout junior year, posting career-high totals in goals (6), assists (14) and points (20). What can we expect from you as a senior?
I think people can expect me to take on a bigger leadership role on and off the ice. In doing so, I plan to continue to work at improving my game to help the team in any way I can.
Why did you choose Northern Michigan? What made you look at the school?
The hockey program and coaching staff is what originally made me look at Northern Michigan. However, after visiting Marquette and seeing the campus and facilities, I fell in love with the area, which made my decision to come here much easier.
What have you enjoyed most about being at NMU?
I really have enjoyed everything about Northern Michigan, but I think I have enjoyed the people the most. From my teammates, coaches, classmates, professors and community members, I have been fortunate to meet many special people and build great relationships.
What are your goals for after graduation?
I hope to continue to play hockey and eventually start a career in business using my finance degree.
NEWS & NOTES
Northern Michigan recently welcomed four new head coaches. Right to left: Kyle Nystrom (football), Mike Lozier (volleyball), Sonia Basma (women’s soccer) & Grant Potulny (hockey). Read their bios at nmuwildcats.com.
The lacrosse team opened its inaugural season by toppling Northland, 18-1, at the Superior Dome on Feb. 18. The Wildcats scored 18 unanswered goals, 10 in the first half and eight in the second, to down the Lumberjills. Shelby Klotz led the way, netting five goals, including the team’s first just 19 seconds into the game off of a free-position shot.
From Jan. 21 to Feb. 11, hockey goalie Atte Tolvanen blanked five straight opponents, breaking the WCHA men’s record and tying the NCAA men’s record for consecutive shutouts. His scoreless streak, over which he made 220 straight-saves, ended at 339:05, good for first in WCHA men’s history and second in NCAA men’s history.
On Feb. 18 at Grand Valley State, guard Bre Gaspervich became the 25th Wildcat women’s basketball player to score 1,000 points in her career. A two-time all-GLIAC second and defensive team honoree, she wrapped up her time on the Northern team with 1,028 points, 366 rebounds, 189 assists and 164 steals in 113 games as a Wildcat.
During the 2016-17 season, Wildcats have captured 15 All-American awards. Student-athletes are awarded All-American accolades in cross country, Nordic skiing, swimming & diving and indoor and outdoor track & field based on their placement at the NCAA National Championships.
Lajos Budai - 50 freestyle, 100 backstroke, 100 freestyle
Renars Bundzis – 200 backstroke Kameron Burmeister – cross country 6K, indoor 5,000-meter run
Rachel Helm – 100 backstroke, 200 backstroke
Vivian Hett – 5K classic
Samanthia Johnson – discus throw
Adam Martin – 10K classic, 20K freestyle
Angela Probstfeld – 3-meter dive
Fredrik Schwencke – 10K classic
Jasmine Williams – weight throw