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.)
Kaylee Draper ♦ Sturgis
Junior ♦ Swimming
Draper joined teammates Kenzy Triezenberg, Ainsley Gump and Emma Garbine to swim the 200-yard medley relay in 1:55.53 on Sept. 7 against Hastings, breaking a school record from 1997. Draper also won the 50 freestyle with a Finals cut time of 25.47 seconds as Sturgis won the dual 92-69. Two days later, she swam on the winning 200 medley again and the 200 freestyle relay and was second in the 50 butterfly as the Trojans won the Mason Sprint Invitational.
She helped Sturgis finish 28th at last season’s Lower Peninsula Division 3 Finals, placing eighth in the 100 backstroke and 14th in the 50 freestyle and swimming on the 15th-place 200 freestyle relay. She also runs cross country during the fall and is a pole vaulter and thrower on the track & field team.
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Past 2023-24 Honorees
(PHOTOS courtesy of the Sturgis Journal.)