GRAND RAPIDS – Hannah Williams doesn't mind flying under the radar. In fact, the Portage Northern sophomore has thrived in the underdog role.
Williams went from virtually an unknown freshman to shocking nearly everyone including herself with a pair of individual titles at Saturday's Lower Peninsula Division 2 swimming & diving meet at Grand Rapids Northview.
She joined Jordyn Shipps of DeWitt as the only swimmers to capture two events in a meet won by Birmingham Seaholm for the third time in five years.
Williams, who didn't qualify for the Finals a year ago, won the 200-yard freestyle (1:49.42) and the 100 breaststroke (1:03.68), an admitted stunner for nearly everyone. Williams won three state titles in club swimming as an eighth grader, but didn't necessarily move the attention needle as a freshman.
"I'm as surprised as you – I didn't expect it," she said. "I don't know where it came from. I was kind of nervous, but my coach said just bust it, just go for it, just swim as well as I can. Nobody really knew who I was, and that was kind of a perk."
The same can't be said for Shipps, who was making her fourth Finals trip. She captured the 200 individual medley (2:02.50) and 100 free (50.80). Shipps, who is headed to Oakland University next season, credited her experience – combined with a simple swim philosophy – with leaving her in the hunt for a title.
"I don't have a best event, but the (200 IM) is definitely one of my stronger ones," she said. "You need four different strokes to be good, and my approach is just to get out front and stay there. I just wanted the chance to compete, and I did. It was awesome."
While Williams and Shipps stood out as individuals, Seaholm coach Karl Hodgson said his swimmers don't necessarily turn heads individually, but compete as well as any athlete. Seaholm won the 200 free (1:36.15) and 400 free relays (3:31.84), but garnered no individual winners. The same actually happened for last year's Maples championship team. Seaholm finished with 309 points on Saturday to 263 for runner-up Rochester Adams. Grand Rapids Northview was third with 174.
"We have numbers and talent," Hodgson said. "We have been fortunate to have a lot of talented kids. We knew we would be in the hunt. We had a lot of our team back, so we definitely knew we'd be in the hunt. The strength to our team is relay, and depth."
Seaholm's roster Saturday included eight seniors from a team of 56 swimmers. Hodgson said a season which included two stoppages, week-to-week workouts and virtual meetings was difficult, particularly at the end.
"I'll be honest, some girls didn't want to do this," he said. "They had already moved on, so this was tough."
Williams wasn't the only Portage Northern swimmer to win a title as junior Angelina Baker won the 500 free (4:57.15).
Other winners included Grace Albrecht of Jenison, who won the 50 free (23.90), Fenton's Gracie Olsen in the 100 butterfly (55.18) and Abby Forbes of Grand Rapids Northview, who won the 100 backstroke (56.15).
Albrecht, just a freshman, went from success in the USA swim program "JAWS" a year ago to her title.
"Obviously it was difficult," she said. "You just try to motivate yourself as much as you can. I just tried to beat my best time and not look at placing."
Unlike Williams and Albrecht, who were making their Finals debuts, Olsen had won three individual events in her first two trips as a freshman and sophomore.
"Each year is as fun as the year before," she said. "Experience helps. You recognize what is around you and what to expect. There is still pressure, but you get used to it."
Forbes, a conference winner in the 100 backstroke and 200 IM, said her personal expectations have grown each season.
"As a freshman you're just swimming to get a personal best. But I have confidence in myself and I wanted to finish first or second," she said. "This was just awesome. I set some goals and I had confidence I could make them."
Division 2 champions also included Rochester Adams in the 200 medley relay (1:45.65). Lily Witte, a sophomore from Dexter, repeated as the diving champion with 486.95 points – an LPD2 Finals record.
PHOTOS: (Top) Birmingham Seaholm's Samantha Clifford, top, swims toward one of her four top-three individual or relay finishes at Saturday's Division 2 Finals. (Middle) St. Joseph's Sylvia Park swims her leg of the 200 medley relay. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
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.