By Keith Dunlap
Special for Second Half
ROCHESTER – Who says you can’t do any gardening in November?
It certainly worked for the Birmingham Seaholm girls swimming & diving team.
Last season with a relatively young group, Seaholm finished runner-up at the Lower Peninsula Division 2 Finals, a result that stunned head coach Karl Hodgson in a good way and planted something special for 2019.
“That’s all we talked about from that point on,” Hodgson said. “Last year, we thought it was going to be a rebuilding year and it was kind of surprising we came in second. Right there, the seed was planted and they didn’t lose sight of that.”
That seed planted a year earlier turned into a championship trophy.
Seaholm captured its first Finals title since 2016, easily outdistancing the field with 304 points.
Grosse Pointe South was the closest pursuer, finishing runner-up with 222 points. Birmingham Groves was third with 198.
Seaholm entered the meet ranked No. 1, and lived up to that billing.
The Maples started the meet with a win, taking first in the 200-yard medley relay in a time of 1:45.83 with the team of sophomores Isabella Vaughan, Lauren Louwers, Katherine Stanley and Eliza Dixon.
Seaholm also won the 200 freestyle relay in a time of 1:36.34 behind Dixon, sophomore Samantha Clifford and juniors Chloe Blake and Megan Clifford.
Seaholm didn’t win any individual events, but showcased its depth by still accumulating plenty of points with high finishes.
“We’re a heavy sophomore team, and I think that one year as freshmen (at the state meet) to develop, that’s a big deal,” Hodgson said. “At this meet, some can be overwhelmed, so you tend to do better in the sophomore and junior years.”
With Seaholm reliant on so many sophomores, as Hodgson pointed out, it seems like the “D” word might be on the horizon for the Maples.
But Hodgson wanted to pump the brakes temporarily on any talk of a dynasty.
“These high school kids, you never know what they are going to do and what direction they are headed,” Hodgson said. “But I will tell you, the future does look good.”
There were three individual standouts who each won three events at the meet.
Midland Dow senior Claire Newman once again dominated the sprints, repeating in the 50 (22.95) and 100 freestyles (50.23).
Newman, who will swim at University of Michigan, said it wasn’t hard to maintain her drive and hunger despite winning those events last year because of how much passion the Finals generates.
“There have been a lot of ups and downs,” Newman said. “This is just a perfect way to end my last one. I’m really thankful, more so than anything. Of course, there’s joy. But more so I’m thankful.”
Farmington junior Madeline Greaves won the 200 individual medley (2:04.35) and 500 freestyle (5:00.13), while Fenton sophomore Gracie Olsen won the 200 freestyle (1:48.98) and 100 butterfly (54.62).
The other individual winners were Dexter freshman Lily Witte in diving with 468.40 points, Dexter junior Charlotte Schultz in the 100 backstroke with a time of 56.42, and St. Clair Shores Lakeview sophomore Elly Belmore in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:04.32.
PHOTOS: (Top) Lauren Louwers powers through one of her swims in helping Seaholm to the team title Saturday at Oakland University. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
Lily Witte ♦ Dexter
Senior ♦ Swimming & Diving
The Dreadnaughts’ phenom capped her high school career with her fourth MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 Finals championship, in the process obliterating the all-Finals record with a score of 554.65, more than 45 points higher than the previous mark. Witte had entered her final MHSAA meet having scored the second-highest score on the all-Finals list, 503.55, last year.
Witte won a junior national championship in 1-meter diving during the summer and has represented Team USA in multiple international competitions – and will be doing so this weekend in junior world championship competition in Montreal. In something of a rarity for elite divers, Witte also swam on two relays for Dexter at Saturday’s Finals, helping her team to a 10th-place finish in the 200-yard freestyle relay and 13th place in the 200 medley. She has signed to continue diving at Indiana University and intends to study computer science.
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Nov. 10: Derek Huisman, Holland Christian soccer - Report
Nov. 3: Thomas Westphal, New Baltimore Anchor Bay cross country - Report
Oct. 27: Justin Wickey, Colon football - Report
Oct. 20: Owen DeMuth, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood tennis - Report
Oct. 13: Mia Melendez, Ann Arbor Greenhills golf - Report
Oct. 6: Shawn Foster, Grand Ledge football - Report
Sept. 30: Hannah Smith, Temperance Bedford swimming - Report
Sept. 22: Helen Sachs, Holland West Ottawa cross country - Report
Sept. 15: Nina Horning, Lake Orion volleyball - Report
Sept 8: Arturo Romero, Muskegon Oakridge soccer - Report
Sept. 1: Austin King, Midland Dow tennis - Report
Aug. 25: Olivia Hemmila, Troy Athens golf - Report
(Top photo by High School Sports Scene.)