Swim coaches, more than those for any sport, have an ability to predict how a meet will end long before their athletes take to the water.
If those coaches are right this season, Saline and Birmingham Seaholm will repeat as MHSAA Lower Peninsula Swimming and Diving champions this weekend in Divisions 1 and 2, respectively. And Grand Rapids Christian will win its first MHSAA championship, claiming Division 3.
Eastern Michigan University will host this season’s Division 1 Final, with Division 2 at the Holland Aquatics Center and Division 3 at Oakland University. Preliminaries are Friday and championships will be decided Saturday.
Tickets cost $8, and competition begins at noon both days. Saturday’s championship races will be streamed live at FoxSportsDetroit.com and MHSAA.tv. Click for a full schedule and lists of qualifiers, their seed times and diving orders.
Predictions obviously don’t always come true. But here are some the teams, relays and individuals who could make the biggest waves:
You’ll recognize these contenders
Division 1: Saline and Rockford have remained unchanged in the top two spots of the coaches poll all season long, with Ann Arbor Pioneer and Birmingham Brother Rice taking turns in the third spot. Saline has dominated the last two MHSAA Division 1 championships – with Pioneer as runner-up both times. Rockford is seeking its first title since 2001. The Rams finished third last season.
Division 2: The top four in every coaches poll this season has read 1. Birmingham Seaholm, 2. Dexter, 3. Birmingham Groves, 4. Holland. Seaholm beat Groves by eight and Dexter by 30 last season. Seaholm has 40 swimming cuts (not counting relays) this time; Dexter has 26.
Division 3: Reigning champions Hamilton and East Grand Rapids have alternated winning this division since the MHSAA went from two to three five seasons ago. But Grand Rapids Christian is attempting to break that hold after finishing third, fifth and sixth the last three seasons, respectively. St. Joseph has big points potential from a couple of standouts, but might not have enough throughout the line-up to push the big three.
Pass the baton
Keep an eye on these relays, which all could post significant finishes Saturday:
Saline’s 400-yard freestyle relay: Saline would need to cut 4.53 seconds from its seed time to equal last season’s all-Finals record of 3:04.83. But this season’s top time of 3:09.36 is nearly two seconds better than the field, and seniors James Fisher and juniors David Boland and Adam Whitener all were on that record-setting team in 2011.
Birmingham Groves’ 400 freestyle relay: Groves has swum 3:12.79, 7.16 seconds off its Division 2 record pace from last season. However, seniors Scott Crosthwaite, Noah Zamler and Steven Curry all were on that record setter and are back in the line-up.
Grand Rapids Christian’s 200 freestyle relay: The Eagles will try to win one of the best races of the day in any division. Grand Rapids Christian has posted a top time of 1:27.95. Hamilton set the Division 3 record last season with a 1:26.10 and has a top time this season of 1:28.60. But Hamilton also has three swimmers back from that record-setting relay – seniors Joey DeGood and Ryan Hagen and junior Zach Lepird.
Athletes to Watch
David Boland, Saline junior – He could add fifth and sixth individual MHSAA championships to his list this weekend after winning both the individual medley and butterfly as both a freshman and sophomore. He’s also the Division 1 Final record holder in both races and as part of the 400 relay. His 400 and 200 relays won championships as well last season.
Ben Carter, St. Joseph freshman – The first-year phenom is seeded first in two Division 3 races – the 50 (21.58) and 100 freestyles (47.79), with healthy edges in both. He also will swim on three relays expected to score, including two contenders.
Eric Chisholm, Rockford senior – He’s looking to finish his high school career as the elite sprinter in Division 1. He won the 50 freestyle last season and his top time this winter of 20.59 seconds is a second better than both his winning time last season and the best times from the rest of the field. Chisholm also has the second-fastest 100 freestyle time (46.84) and will swim on three relays expected to contend.
Daniel Gironza, South Lyon senior – Based on Regional score, he’s the heavy Division 1 favorite after finishing seventh at the 2011 Final. Gironza’s score Tuesday of 490.55 was 89 points better than that of any other Division 1 diver.
Jackson Goethe, Midland Dow junior – He’s got the top-seeded Division 2 time in the 50 (21.43) and 100 freestyles (46.82), the latter by more than a second. He’ll swim on all three Dow relays, including two that should be in the running for first.
Matt Hooper, East Grand Rapids junior – The reigning Division 3 breaststroke champion has the top seed time in that race (57.77), which would be good enough to set a Division 3 record. Hooper also is seeded third in the IM (1:58.40) and will swim on two relays – including the reigning champion in the 200 medley.
Brennan LaBar, St. Johns junior – He won the Division 2 diving championship last season and won his Regional on Tuesday with a score of 451.50. But he’ll have to hold off Highland-Milford’s Scott Jessup, also a Regional champion with a score of 461.85.
Ben Martin, Midland Dow junior – His 200 individual medley seed time (1:54.77) is 2.2 seconds better than the rest of the Division 2 field, and his 100 butterfly time of 52.69 is a half-second better than the rest. Like teammate Goethe, he’ll also swim on all three relays.
Christian Mellos, Grosse Pointe North senior – After finishing seventh in the individual medley and fifth in the breaststroke last season, Mellos brings in the top Division 2 seed time in the latter (58.46) and the third-best (1:57.44) in the IM. He’ll also swim on two relays – one expected to contend and the other expected to push for a spot in the top heat.
Aaron Moyer, St. Joseph senior – He’s favored heavily to win his third-straight Division 3 championship in the individual medley and has the top seed time (1:56.54) by nearly two seconds. He’s also the top seed in the butterfly (51.99) and, like teammate Carter, will swim on all three relays.
Seiji Osawa, Ann Arbor Pioneer senior – Looking to go out strong after winning the 500 freestyle as a sophomore, Osawa has Division 1’s top seed time in that race (4:41.14) and the second-fastest in the 200 freestyle (1:42.76). He’ll also swim on two relays expected to contend for a spot in the championship heat.
Henk Plaggemars, Haslett senior – He’s taken over for graduated teammate Chris McLauchlan, who finished Division 3 runner-up last season. Plaggemars won his Regional with a score of 417.90, 16 points better than anyone else in his division. He finished sixth at last season’s Final.
Adam Whitener, Saline junior – He won both the 100 and 200 freestyles at last season’s Division 1 meet. And not surprisingly, he’s posted the lowest seed times in both of those races this winter. Whitener also could finish as part of two winning relays for the second straight season.
Victor Zhang, Canton senior – The reigning champion in the 100 backstroke has Division 1’s fastest seed time in both that race (52.04) and the 200 individual medley (1:51.65). In the latter, he’ll likely compete with reigning champion Boland of Saline. Zhang also will swim on two relays.