By Ryan Stieg
Special for Second Half
MARQUETTE – Sometimes just one event can make the difference between a happy experience and a devastating one.
And that’s what happened at the girls Upper Peninsula Swimming & Diving Finals on Saturday.
Heading into the final event, Houghton led Marquette by just one point, and a tension-filled atmosphere filled the pool deck at Marquette Senior High School. Gremlins head coach Erik Johnson had an intense look on his face as he wondered if his team would grasp its first championship since 2014.
In the end, Johnson ended up pumping his fist in excitement and hugging his assistants as the Gremlins won the 400-yard freestyle relay and the team title, finishing ahead of the Redettes.
“We knew we had to do well in that last race to finish in front of Marquette and the girls took care of business,” Johnson said. “That relay has been a point of emphasis for us all year and to finish it off is something special.”
“There were a lot of emotions coming out and I don’t have much of a voice left, but this is a great feeling.”
In addition to the big relay win, Houghton also took first in two individual events as Samantha Olson won the 200 free and Tessa Meyer won the 100 butterfly.
Marquette head coach Nathan McFarren said it came down to depth, and that Houghton just had a little more of it this year.
“We had some pretty outstanding swims today,” he said. “I told the girls that we aren’t going to get second place every year, and that we’ll continue to grow. I think we knocked it out of the park today on both the boys and girls side, but I have to give credit to Erik though. They just gave us more than we could handle.”
The Redettes won the other two relays, the 200 medley and the 200 free. They also had two individual champions as Taryn Aho won both the 200 individual medley and the 500 free, while Jayme Winn took first in the 100 freestyle.
Gladstone, who won the meet last year, took third this year with 224 points, while Rudyard took fourth with 146. The Braves won one event as Sydney Herioux finished first in the 100 breaststroke, while Rudyard won two. Trista MacDowell took first in both the 50 free and 100 backstroke.
Braves head coach Tom Desy said his team lacked the depth of last year’s championship squad, but he was pleased with how his team performed.
“I thought the girls did pretty well,” he said. “We had some sickness come through our team the last couple of weeks, but the ones who were able to show up have done a great job. They had some self-doubt coming in, but they did well and I’m proud of them. We were just a little shorthanded.”
Westwood ended up in ninth place, but the Patriots did have one individual champion as Bethany Laasko won the 1-meter diving competition Friday night.
PHOTOS: (Top) A Houghton swimmer races during Saturday's Upper Peninsula Finals. (Middle) Swimmers launch during an event at Marquette High School. (Click to see more from Jarvinen Photos.)
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.