JENISON – A majority of high school relay teams feature four swimmers with different last names.
At Jenison, two pairs of talented sisters have been making two last names stand out.
The Albrecht sisters, Grace and Emma, and the Umstead sisters, Sophia and Layla, have combined this season to lead the Wildcats’ swimming & diving team with record-breaking performances.
The quartet recently set a school record in the 200-yard medley relay. They blazed a winning time of 1 minute, 44.34 seconds at the MISCA Meet, held at Calvin College.
“Our fastest relay has been with those girls together, so it’s been two pairs of sisters just swimming fast,” Jenison swim coach Kyle Stumpf said. “It’s been cool watching these two sister groups kind of work with each other and support each other.
“They all have different personalities, so it’s fun to see that play out at practice.”
Grace Albrecht, a junior, is the oldest of the talented group and has experienced the most success by winning a pair of MHSAA Finals championships.
She won a Lower Peninsula Division 2 title in the 50 freestyle as a freshman and then repeated last season by tying Ann Arbor Skyline’s Claire Kozma. Both girls swam identical times of 23.94.
Albrecht has been even better this season, and posted a personal-best time of 23.37 at the MISCA Meet.
“For me, it’s more about having fun and enjoying the process,” she said. “Working hard and getting better every day, that’s my goal.”
She also has enjoyed swimming with her younger sister for the first time in high school.
Emma Albrecht is only a freshman, but has posted several fast times as well.
“We’ve been swimming together since we were young girls, and we’ve gotten to know each other so well with every car ride to school and to and from meets and practices,” Grace Albrecht said. “We are like best friends now, and we just motivate and encourage each other every day. It’s been a good experience.”
Sophia Umstead, a sophomore, is swimming in high school for the first time after being a part of a club team.
She’s also embraced the opportunity to swim alongside her freshman sibling.
“It’s really fun swimming with Layla, and I enjoy it because in club we don’t always swim together,” said Sophia Umstead, who set a pool record and school record at the MISCA Meet in the 200 individual medley with a time of 2:00.52, while also establishing a school record in the 100 breaststroke (1:02.17).
“All of us sisters get along well, and I love them all. Our personalities are different, but when it comes to swimming we are all very similar with our goals and how we want to be successful in the sport.”
The sisters became well acquainted while competing in club at a young age.
“We’ve known each other since we were little girls, and we’re all great friends,” Grace Albrecht said. “It’s definitely been a cool experience.”
Stumpf said the sisters’ bond and dedication have helped produce success.
“They have been performing at a high level for a number of years, and they have high expectations,” he said. “They train together and are always pushing each other. They all have different strengths, and it’s been a pleasure to be on the deck coaching them.”
Stumpf has been coaching Grace Albrecht since before high school and has marveled at her vast improvement.
“It’s been quite remarkable to watch how far she has come,” he said. “She is one who has high standards for herself and her teammates, and she leads by example. She pushes herself every single practice, and the results speak for themselves.”
Jenison had its best Finals team finish two years ago when it finished fifth in LPD2, and this team has the potential to achieve similar results.
“It’s definitely a group that is learning as we go, and we’ve gotten better as the season has progressed in terms of supporting each other, lifting each other up and pushing each other,” Stumpf said. “I’m really looking forward to seeing what our team can do at the conference meet in three weeks and then at the state meet. I think we are going to perform well.”
Sophia Umstead also is looking forward to the postseason.
“It's been a different experience than club, but I really like this team and it’s been a very fun experience so far,” she said. “I think we can swim very well at the conference meet as a team, and I think we could get top three in the state. I’m excited to see how it’s going to go.”
Dean Holzwarth has covered primarily high school sports for Grand Rapids-based WOOD-TV for five years after serving at the Grand Rapids Press and MLive for 16 years along with shorter stints at the Ionia Sentinel and WZZM. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org with story ideas for Allegan, Kent and Ottawa counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Jenison’s Albrecht and Umstead sisters have their team back among the state’s elite this season. (Middle) Grace Albrecht, middle, begins her launch from the starting blocks during last season’s LPD2 50 freestyle final. (Top photo courtesy of the Jenison girls swimming & diving program; middle photo by High School Sports Scene.)
The addition of two games to basketball regular-season schedules and a new series of wrestling weight classes are likely the most noticeable Winter 2022-23 changes as an estimated 65,000 athletes statewide take part in 13 sports for which the Michigan High School Athletic Association sponsors postseason tournaments.
Girls gymnastics and boys ice hockey teams were able to begin practice Oct. 31, with the rest of those sports beginning in November – including also girls and boys basketball, girls and boys bowling, girls competitive cheer, girls and boys skiing, Upper Peninsula girls and boys and Lower Peninsula boys swimming & diving, and girls and boys wrestling.
A variety of changes are in effect for winter sports this season, including a several that will be noteworthy and noticeable to teams and spectators alike.
Basketball remains the most-participated winter sport for MHSAA member schools with 33,000 athletes taking part last season, and for the first time, basketball teams may play up to 22 regular-season games. This increase from the previous 20-game schedule allows more games for teams at every high school level – varsity, junior varsity and freshman.
Another significant change has been made in wrestling, as the majority of boys wrestling weight classes have been adjusted for this season in anticipation of a national change coming in 2023-24. The updated boys weight classes are 106, 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 144, 150, 157, 165, 175, 190, 215 and 285 pounds. Only 215 and 285 remain from the previous lineup. There is also one change to girls weight classes, with the 255 class replaced by 235 to also align with national high school standards.
A series of notable changes will affect how competition takes place at the MHSAA Tournament levels. In hockey, in addition to a new classification process that spread cooperative and single-school programs evenly throughout the three playoff divisions, the MHSAA Tournament will employ two changes. The Michigan Power Ratings (MPR) will be used to seed the entire Regional round, not just the top two teams, and prior to the start of Semifinals, a seeding committee will reseed the remaining four teams in each division with the top seed in each then facing the No. 4 seed, and the No. 2 seed facing No. 3.
Bowling also will see an MHSAA Tournament change, as the Team Regional format will mirror the long-standing Team Final with teams playing eight Baker games and two regular games at both levels. And as also applied during the fall girls season, there is a new qualification process for divers seeking to advance to Lower Peninsula Boys Swimming & Diving Finals. In each of the three divisions, each Regional will be guaranteed 10 qualifiers for the Finals, with six more “floating” qualifier entries to be distributed to the Regionals that have one of the previous year’s top six returning Finals divers in their fields. If a team changes division from the previous season, any floating top-six spots are added to the six already allowed in the school’s new division.
A gymnastics rules change provides an opportunity for additional scoring during the floor exercise. A dance passage requirement was added in place of the former dance series requirement to encourage creativity and a more artistic use of dance. The dance passage requires gymnasts to include two Group 1 elements – one a leap with legs in cross or side split position, the other a superior element.
In competitive cheer, the penalty for going over the time limit in each round was adjusted to one penalty point for every second over the time limit, not to exceed 15 points. The new time limit rule is more lenient than the past penalty, which subtracted points based on ranges of time over the limit.
The 2022-23 Winter campaign culminates with postseason tournaments, as the championship schedule begins with the Upper Peninsula Girls & Boys Swimming & Diving Finals on Feb. 18 and wraps up with the Boys Basketball Finals on March 25. Here is a complete list of winter tournament dates:
Districts – March 6, 8, 10
Regionals – March 13, 15
Quarterfinals – March 21
Semifinals – March 23-24
Finals – March 25
Districts – Feb. 27, March 1, 3
Regionals – March 7, 9
Quarterfinals – March 14
Semifinals – March 16-17
Finals – March 18
Regionals – Feb. 24-25
Finals – March 3-4
District – Feb. 17-18
Regionals – Feb. 25
Finals – March 2-3
Regionals – March 4
Finals – March 10-11
Regionals – Feb. 20-March 1
Quarterfinals – March 4
Semifinals – March 9-10
Finals – March 11
Regionals – Feb. 13-17
Finals – Feb. 27
Swimming & Diving
Upper Peninsula Girls/Boys Finals – Feb. 18
Lower Peninsula Boys Diving Regionals – March 2
Lower Peninsula Boys Finals – March 10-11
Wrestling – Team
Districts – Feb. 8-9
Regionals – Feb. 15
Finals – Feb. 24-25
Wrestling – Individual
Districts – Feb. 11
Regionals – Feb. 18
Finals – March 3-4
The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,500 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.3 million spectators each year.