MARQUETTE — Many of the Houghton High School girls may be too young to remember when the Gremlins had last earned an Upper Peninsula swimming title.
The Gremlins, however, created their own memories on Saturday as they gained their first title in 12 years with 339 points. They were followed by 11-time defending champion Marquette 319 and Sault Ste. Marie 155.
“In all the recent history, not only did we have the depth,” Houghton coach Roger Woods said shortly after diving in the pool with his team moments after receiving the championship trophy. “We also had the top end talent. We just couldn’t win the relays. Last year, we got swept in the relays. This year, we won only one. But we were close in the others.”
Houghton senior Rebecca Jaczczak retained her 50-yard freestyle title in 25.62 seconds and copped her first 100 backstroke crown (1:07.14) at the Marquette High School pool.
“I’m real happy with that,” said Jaczczak, who hopes to major in exercise science, but is undecided on which college she wants to attend. “Coming in here as a defending champion in 50 freestyle was a great motivator. All the hard work and focus this season paid off. Also, our coach is phenomenal. He has a passion for everything we do. HIs positive thinking rubs off an all of us.”
Jaczazak also helped the Gremlins open with a victory in the 200 medley relay and place second in the 400 freestyle relay.
Sophomore Hannah Gundlach, also a part of the Gremlins’ 400 relay, added a first in 500 freestyle (5:40.21) and second in 200 freestyle (2:08.79).
“Hannah knows how to swim in a big meet,” said Woods. “It was the same thing in the 200. When I saw her take off out of the gates, I knew she was going to have a good day.”
Adding an individual first for Houghton was sophomore Sophie Witting in 100 butterfly (1:09.32), who also helped the winning 200 medley relay and second-place 200 freestyle unit.
Marquette’s leader was senior Katy Beckstrom, who won 100 breaststroke (1:12.37) and helped the winning 400 freestyle relay and runner-up 200 medley relay.
“Our senior girls had an amazing end to their season,” said Marquette coach Nate McFarren. “All of them had personal bests. Personally, I wanted everything for all our kids. I’m very proud of them, their parents, our assistant coaches, helpers and community.”
Marquette’s underclassmen showed plenty of promise in this meet. A prime example was the 500 freestyle where the Redettes took three of the top five places.
For example, sophomore Janelle Carroll was runner-up in the 500 freestyle (5:50.14) and helped the winning 200 and 400 freestyle relays.
Classmate Logan Vear also helped the two shorter relays and placed second in 200 individual medley (2:30.55) and third in 100 butterfly (1:11.11).
“We’re excited about the girls we have coming back,” said McFarren. “I think we have the potential to field a very strong team next year.”
Next year’s U.P. FInals will be held at Houghton.
“We’re looking forward to that,” said Hancock-Jeffers coach Joanne Rouleau. “That will be a nice, short trip. All we’ll have to do is go across the (Portage Canal lift) bridge.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Swimmers leap at the start of a race during Saturday's Finals at Marquette High School. (Middle) Champion Houghton poses on the trophy stand after clinching this season's title. (Photos courtesy of Keith Freeman of Freeman's Photography.)
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.)