By Chip Mundy
Special to Second Half
YPSILANTI – Holland High School junior Taylor Garcia had a perfect day Saturday at the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 girls swimming and diving championships.
One year after winning four titles (two individual and two relay), Garcia successfully defended all four championships at the Michael H. Jones Natatorium on the campus of Eastern Michigan University.
Garcia’s performance led Holland to its third consecutive Division 2 team championship in convincing fashion with 287 points – far ahead of runner-up Portage Central (235) and third-place Bloomfield Hills.
“It’s definitely very humbling,” Garcia said. “It definitely was a great experience.”
It definitely was a great performance, too.
Garcia and teammates Anna Giesler, Abi Johns and Clara Steeby opened the meet by winning the 200-yard medley relay. Last year, Holland won the same event with Garcia and three others.
Garcia went on to win the 100 butterfly for the third year in a row, breaking her LP Division 2 record with a time of 54.01 seconds – slightly faster than the record-setting 54.39 she swam in 2011.
“That was a fun little add-on,” Garcia said of the record. “It was something that I definitely had in the back of my mind that I wanted to accomplish.”
A few events later, she successfully defended her championship in the 100 backstroke in 52.95 – a second off the LP Division 2 record but faster than her winning time in 2012. The final MHSAA title came in the 400 freestyle relay – the final event of the meet – as Garcia teamed with seniors Holly Morren, Cassie Misiewicz and Emily Johns to finish first in 3 minutes, 27.79 seconds.
It meant a lot to the three seniors to swim that final race – the final race of their high school careers.
“It really sunk in during the 4 by 1(00),” Morren said. “We all kind of looked at each other and said, 'This is our last time,’ and we all started crying a little bit.”
Holland led that race from first splash to final touch.
“This is really a great moment, not only for this group but for all the groups that went before us and the younger girls who will be coming into this program,” said Garcia, who will enter her senior year with 12 individual and relay MHSAA championships and three team titles.
Holland had one other individual championship as Morren won the 50 freestyle in a side-by-side battle with Hanna Pfershy of Birmingham Groves. After winning the preliminary on Friday by two-hundredths of a second over Pfershy, Morren won Saturday by three-hundredths of a second over Pfershy (23.59 to 23.62).
“It was really hard to tell (who finished first), so I just looked at the board really quickly,” Morren said. “I couldn’t tell going into it.”
She said having Pfershy there to push her was a help.
“I think it definitely helps – it pushes you,” she said. “Like when you get tired and there’s not someone there pushing you, you kind of give up. But if there is someone right there, you find another gear.”
Morren also had a runner-up finish as she failed to successfully defend her 2012 title in the 100 freestyle, while Misiewicz was runner-up in the 200 and 500 freestyle events. Morren, Misiewicz, Giesler and Emily Johns also took second for Holland in the 200 freestyle relay.
Mollie Pulte of Bloomfield Hills Marian was the other individual double winner in the meet. Pulte won the 200 in 1:48.37 – a day after breaking the LP Division 2 Finals record with a time of 1:47.90 in the preliminaries. Then, Pulte set another meet record as she won the 100 in 49.87 seconds. The previous record of 49.96 was set by Emily Bos of Holland in 2009.
“It was awesome,” Pulte said. “I came out (Friday) and broke the state record, and I got my momentum going (Saturday) and did the best I can.”
Pulte also swam the anchor leg for Marian as it won the 200 freestyle relay in 1:35.24, again setting a meet record. Maren Taylor, Hannah Richard and freshman Sophia Schott swam the first legs and put Pulte in position to come from behind to win the event.
“They did a good job of keeping us up there, and I just wanted to get out there and race,” Pulte said. “You can normally see the person next to you when you breathe, but I just kept my head down and raced.”
Runner-up Portage Central had one champion in junior Madison Umberger, who won the 200 individual medley in 2:03.79, and Battle Creek Lakeview senior Brooke Rowe won the 100 breaststroke in 1:04.53.
Fraser senior Alli Shereda came from behind to win the diving with 412.10 points. She was in second place after the preliminaries and semifinals on Friday, and she was still second before her final dive – a front two-and-a-half tuck.
“Actually, that dive is one of my worst dives. So I just went at it like I meant it, and I really thought I went over a lot (on the entry),” said Shereda, who finished 10th last year. “I just focused and acted like it was a practice, because I always do my best at practice. I just acted like it was a bigger, fancier practice."
The best finish of the day might have been turned in by Bay City Western junior Krissy Harmon in the 500 freestyle. Harmon trailed Holland’s Misiewicz – the two-time defending champion in the event – by a substantial margin entering the final 50 yards and never grabbed the lead until the final few. She beat Misiewicz in 4:59.42; Misiewicz finished in 4:59.46.
“I didn’t see her until the finish,” Harmon said. “I’ve been working really hard on my back half, so I’m glad it paid off. I didn’t know if I could win; all I wanted to do was break five minutes. That was my goal.”
Misiewicz is one of several seniors who will be missed next year at Holland, and Morren felt it was a special group.
“I just felt like the seniors had a lot more leadership this year, and it was fun to be able to lead a bunch of the younger girls,” Morren said. “We’ve all grown really close, especially in the last two weeks. It’s been a lot of fun getting to know everyone on the team.”
Holland also had a first-year coach in Dan Kimble, the son of former coach Don Kimble, who coached the Holland girls for 10 years. Don Kimble moved on to Byron Center.
“I knew coming into this that there were some pretty big shoes to fill,” Dan Kimble said. “Luckily, I swam for him for a long time, and last year I was able to assist both the boys and the girls teams so I kind of got to see him in a bit of a different light on the deck.
“I feel like I had a decent amount of experience knowing the program and what’s been done in the past, and I just tried to continue it as much as possible.”
PHOTO: (Top) A pair of Holland swimmers talk poolside during Saturday's Finals. (Middle) The Holland girls swimming and diving team poses with its Lower Peninsula Division 2 championship trophy after winning the meet for the third straight season.
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.