HOLLAND – Farmington Hills Mercy donned maroon Nike dunk low tennis shoes at the conclusion of Saturday’s Lower Peninsula Division 2 Girls Swimming & Diving Finals.
It seemed rather appropriate as the Marlins’ effort was an absolute slam dunk.
Mercy captured its first Finals since 2019 at the Holland Aquatic Center, and did so in dominating fashion, winning by more than 125 points.
The Marlins scored a whopping 326, while runner-up Birmingham Seaholm finished with 198. Grand Rapids Northview (172) and Ann Arbor Skyline (164) rounded out the top four.
“I don’t know if I thought it would be as dominating a performance as it was,” Mercy coach Mike Venos said. “We always kind of gear up for Friday and leave it all in the pool and kind of hang on on Saturday, but they stepped it up again today.
“In the 40 years I've been coaching, I don’t know if we've had a team that has swam as well on Saturday as we did this year. We brought 19 girls here, and it was truly a team effort.”
The 2022 champion, East Grand Rapids, moved to Division 3 this season, making way for a new champion to be crowned.
The Marlins were led by senior Amylia Higgins, who swam to victories in the 50-yard freestyle (23.57) and 100 freestyle (50.84).
“It’s been amazing competing with these girls the past two days, but it's never been about winning for us,” Higgins said. “Personally, my goal going into this meet was to savor the last few moments of wearing a Mercy cap and representing this team.
“We all swam for each other and the team is what powers us. Swimming for the team is what got us here.”
Mercy, which won the 200 freestyle relay as well, used its depth and talent to overwhelm the field.
“We worked really hard all season to make sure everyone was in a good mindset coming into this meet,” senior captain Elena Garza said. “The fact that we are all able to come together and do this as a team was really important. We couldn't have done it without each other and the support system we’ve built.”
Seaholm posted its best finish since winning three consecutive Division 2 Finals from 2019-2021.
“Today we were kind of flat, and we were phenomenal yesterday (Friday),” Seaholm coach Karl Hodgson said. “It was one of the best preliminaries I can remember. It was a special day, but I knew today would be difficult because Mercy has such good swimmers and an all-around team. They had swimmers everywhere, and we had holes.”
After the slow start, Seaholm gained momentum with a win by senior Kelley Hassett in the 500 freestyle.
She also was the 500 freestyle champion last year.
“It was my goal to win the 500, and I’m so proud of my team because we’ve come so far this year,” said Hassett, who also anchored the winning 400 freestyle relay. “Getting second is a huge deal to us.”
Fenton junior Tess Heavner claimed a pair of championships in the 200 IM (2:03.69) and 100 backstroke (55.86).
“I came in knowing I was seeded first in both of my events, so I was really excited to come out and race and see what I could do,” Heavner said. “I’m happy with how I swam, and it felt really good to get state titles in both events. I really like those events, and they are my better events.”
Byron Center senior Brooklyn Beauch ended a stellar career with a victory in the 100 butterfly (54.68), while Ann Arbor Skyline freshman Adrienne Schadler clocked a 1:49.88 to win the 200 freestyle. Farmington senior Mackenzie Bush earned the win in the 100 breaststroke (1:03.60), and Bella Emery of Holt won the diving state title with a score of 383.65.
(Action photos by High School Sports Scene.)
WEST BLOOMFIELD — When she started high school swimming last fall, West Bloomfield sophomore Elizabeth Eichbrecht didn’t know what expectations to have, given she knew full well the high level of competition there was throughout the state.
Well, after two seasons, it’s safe to say Eichbrecht has blown any expectations she had out of the water, pun intended.
At the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 Finals on Nov. 17-18 at Eastern Michigan University, Eichbrecht won her third and fourth individual championships.
She won the 200-yard freestyle in a time of 1:48.08, more than three seconds ahead of the next finisher. The winning time qualified for All-America recognition and bested her first-place time from the 2022 Finals by 0.34 seconds.
Later on, Eichbrecht won the 500 freestyle in a time of 4:47.66, more than 11 seconds ahead of the rest of the field. Her All-American time in that event was more than five seconds better than her winning time in 2022.
Two years, four Finals titles. Not too shabby.
“Yes it’s surprising, because there are so many fast girls and we are all very competitive,” Eichbrecht said.
Eichbrecht already holds six school records – in all four freestyle events, the 200 individual medley and 100 butterfly.
She also owns Oakland Activities Association records in the 200 and 500 freestyles and the 100 butterfly.
“I like the distance events more, mainly because I don’t have to all-out sprint,” Eichbrecht said.
West Bloomfield head coach Ronson Webster said the big reason why Eichbrecht was even better this year as a sophomore after making such an impact as a freshman wasn’t necessarily because she was bigger and stronger, although those were contributing factors.
Mainly, her success this year was the validation that she belonged after such a great freshman season.
“She gained more confidence this year going into her races,” he said. “She focused on racing her race and not who was next to her. Meeting the time we worked for was the goal. Winning is a bonus.”
While Eichbrecht excels at so many events, her specialty has been the 200 and 500 freestyles, which is stating the obvious given the Finals titles she has won in those events.
“Her training is very specific as it is for every swimmer on our team,” Webster said. “Everyone is trained differently. Her technique is very important and specific to her event and body size. Since she is shorter, she can’t swim the same as a tall person. Having the right technique designed for the swimmer and the correct race plan goes a long way.”
Eichbrecht next will focus on her club season for Supernova Swim Team based out of Farmington Hills, and she already is looking forward to competing at the Winter Junior Nationals in Columbus from Dec. 6-9.
By the time her career is over, it’s safe to say Eichbrecht might be the best all-time from a West Bloomfield school that’s not known as much for swimming as other Oakland County powers such as Farmington Hills Mercy or the Birmingham schools. But Eichbrecht is relishing putting her school on the swimming map with all her success so far.
“I love swimming at WB,” she said. “My teammates are amazing, and they work super hard. I’m super proud of all the work they put in this season, and I can’t wait for next season.”
Keith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties
PHOTOS (Top) West Bloomfield’s Elizabeth Eichbrecht swims the winning 200-yard freestyle Nov. 18 at Eastern Michigan University. (Middle) Eichbrecht talks with runner-up Yan Yee Adler from Ann Arbor Pioneer after also winning the 500 freestyle. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)