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 [email protected] 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.)
MARQUETTE – Thanks to the informative meet announcer, the Upper Peninsula Swimming & Diving Finals crowd gets to learn a little bit about each participant – from basic facts like who their parents are to why they like the upcoming race.
In the sprints, that can generate some predictable answers, like the many athletes who pointed out they like that event because it’s one of the shorter races.
Before the grueling 500-yard freestyle event, Marquette senior Grace Sobczak and freshman Olive Krueger brought a little levity and originality, both saying it was because they get to beat the other one.
That, however, is easier said than done for anybody.
Sobczak finished her high school career Saturday a perfect 4-for-4 in the event, and she also repeated as the 200-yard individual medley champion and was part of winning 200 and 400 free relay teams at Marquette Senior High School.
Krueger had a great day as well, pushing Sobczak more than anyone else. She was runner-up in a close finish to Sobczak in the 500 while winning the 100 freestyle and helping the 400 free relay to a win.
“They trained right next to each other,” Marquette coach Nathan McFarren said, “and fed off each other. Just incredible to watch. They one-upped each other and pushed each other up until the race every day.”
They led Marquette to its third-straight U.P. championship as they and their teammates dominated the nine-team field with 386.5 points; runner-up Gladstone had 258. Ishpeming Westwood took third with Kingsford fourth, Houghton fifth, Sault Ste. Marie sixth, Ishpeming/Negaunee seventh, Rudyard eighth and Manistique ninth.
Sobczak said her dad wasn’t a big fan of the pre-race joke, but she said everyone laughed. And in the end, the duo put on a great 500 race with Krueger coming on strong late.
“I had to push myself in that race a lot,” Sobczak said.
That’s her favorite event; she’s a distance swimmer and that’s the only true distance event. Winning that one Saturday and making it a perfect 4-for-4 meant a lot to her.
“It’s amazing, crazy,” Sobczak said. “I got up there, and I started crying because it’s so surreal.”
She was even more reflective at the end of the day.
“I’ve been swimming since I was 6 years old. This was my last race at this pool,” Sobczak said. “We’re three in a row, it’s pretty crazy. Last year I got four (U.P. titles), this year I got four, it’s pretty cool.”
Her coach said she’s quiet but a great leader. She “stepped it up this year with taking charge as a senior,” McFarren said.
And she has a teammate she can pass the baton to in Krueger. While Krueger finished less than two seconds after Sobczak, the next swimmer was more than 30 seconds behind Krueger.
“I knew it’d be close because we always race together, but I’m glad she won,” Krueger said.
Freshman Kaytlin Roell finished first in the 50 free as Marquette won its 28th U.P. Finals team title and fifth over the last six years.
Gladstone senior Adrianna Getzloff had a big day, finishing first in the 200 free and the 100 backstroke. She also helped the Braves to a first-place finish in the 200 medley relay.
Two of her teammates also had first-place finishes – sophomore Irene Neumeier won the 100 butterfly and junior Mary Hook took the 100 breaststroke. They were also on the 200 relay team along with Ava Getzloff.
Westwood sophomore Maggie Harvala won the diving competition with a score of 214.90.
McFarren made it a combined 17 Finals championships as coach for boys and girls for Marquette, tying Marquette’s Matt Williams for the meet record.
PHOTOS (Top) Marquette's Grace Sobczak swims to a victory in the 500-yard freestyle Saturday. (Middle) Kaytlin Roell swims the 100 breaststroke for Marquette. (Below) Gladstone's Mary Hooks swims to the win in the breaststroke. (Click for more from Jarvinen Photos.)