GRAND RAPIDS – There may not be a heated competition between sisters, but that's definitely not the case for opponents of Grace and Emma Albrecht.
The speedy Jenison siblings went head-to-head in two events in addition to swimming together on two winning relays at Saturday's Lower Peninsula Division 2 Finals at Calvin University's Venema Aquatic Center.
"We push each other," said Grace, a junior. "But it's the same as with any other swimmer – we want to win."
The two were critical in helping Jenison finish runner-up behind East Grand Rapids with 219 points. The Pioneers notched their 24th Finals title with 280.
The sisters had a memorable afternoon as Grace edged her younger sister, a freshman, in the 50 freestyle. Grace won the event with a time of 23:41, while Emma was second at 23.82. Grace also was second in the 100 backstroke (54.50), while Emma was seventh (57.46). The two were part of the winning 200 medley (1:43.59) and 400 free relays (3:27.18).
When pressed, Grace will admit she looks at her sister more as a sibling rather than someone she needs to beat.
"Sometimes, once in a while," she said. "But most of the time we're competing against each other."
The sisters began their swimming background at virtually the same time at the club level about seven years ago. Emma said for the most part she looks at her older sister as a competitor, not a sibling.
"She's like any other swimmer," she said. "But we work together as teammates. She taught me always to have a positive attitude, no matter what."
The Pioneers continued their domination of Division 3/Class B Finals. Saturday's title was the team’s sixth in seven years, eighth since 2013 and 14th in 24 years. The program won its first title under coach Butch Briggs in the third year of Swim Finals in 1978 after finishing runner-up at the first two championship meets.
Briggs said the success never gets old. Different maybe, he said, but his swimmers never take anything for granted.
"Coming into the meet we were relatively beyond our seed times. But we found a way to win," said Briggs, who credits depth for the victory. "It's the way we've been all year with the depth. We have a little less than some teams, but Friday was one of our best days I can remember. We were up like 14 points without diving, and diving has saved (us) more than once over the years."
EGR senior Allison Alguire agreed that depth is a team strength, but so is another factor.
"We have a lot of perseverance," said Alguire, one of the team's co-captains who swam personal bests in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke while helping the 200 medley and 400 relays to second and third-place finishes, respectively. "We got close at the end of the year, which made our chemistry better. With our team we don't swim for a best time, we swim for the team."
EGR had only one first place, in the 200 free relay with Caroline Flermoen, Ellery Chandler, Alyssa Hein and Kate Simon.
The top individual performance in the meet came from Dexter senior Lily Witte, who won her fourth-straight diving title with a 554.65, as Caroline Li of Okemos (492.25) finished runner-up for the fourth year. Witte’s score was a Michigan all-Finals and pool record.
"It gets more special," said Witte, who will attend Indiana next season. "The fact that it’s my senior year and last year makes it special. I just try to go out and do what I need to do and try not to worry."
The meet's only double winner was Jenison's Sophie Umstead. She won the 200 individual medley (2:00.33) and the 100 breaststroke (1:01.11). She made a smashing transition from being a club swimmer a year ago as a freshman to becoming a two-event Finals champ.
"I just wanted to come in and swim my best," she said. "Club is similar to high school, but maybe a little more chilled."
Other first places were collected by two Birmingham Seaholm swimmers, Kelley Hassett in the 500 free (4:58.63) and Samantha Clifford in the 200 free (1:48.64). Rhian Russell of Rochester Adams in the 100 butterfly (54.30), Lily Cleason of Ann Arbor Skyline in the 100 backstroke (53.95) and Ella Roberson of Midland Dow in the 100 free (50.13) also won titles.
PHOTO (Top) An East Grand Rapids swimmer leaves the blocks during the 400 freestyle relay. (Middle) Swimmers approach the wall during the breaststroke final. (Click for more from 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.