It’s not that Scarlet Maison needed extra motivation. But now that it’s there, the Standish-Sterling swimming sensation is using it to her advantage.
After winning a Lower Peninsula Division 3 Swimming Finals title in the 200-yard individual medley as a freshman, Maison placed third as a sophomore. She also was second in the 100 breaststroke, just barely missing the chance at a second-straight year of standing on the top of the podium.
That’s driving her to rectify things this season as a junior.
“I definitely feel more prepared than last year,” Maison said. “I’ve been doing a lot more lifting, and I’m a lot stronger. I’m definitely motivated this year. (Missing out on another title) I thought helped. After the race, I thought, ‘I could use this for next year.’ Sometimes, losing isn’t always losing.”
With the Division 3 Swimming & Diving Finals set for Nov. 17 and 18 at Oakland University, Maison once again has put herself among the top contenders in both of her signature events.
She has the top time in the division this year in the 200 IM (2 minutes, 8.65 seconds) and the second-best time in the breaststroke (1:07.31). She’s also among the top 10 in the division in the 100 backstroke and 100 butterfly and has hit Finals qualifying times in every individual event this season, but will be focusing again on the 100 breaststroke and 200 IM.
“She’s always been one that loves to race, especially at a big meet, so it wasn’t surprising to see her race and put on a big swim when she did (as a freshman),” Maison’s father and coach, Shawn Maison, said. “I see her do it all the time. I do expect her to have a good meet next weekend, but you never know what (other swimmers) will do. It’s one of those things, she’s ready, she’ll be tapered and ready to go, but so will the field. It will be who wants it more at this point.”
A year ago Bloomfield Hills Marian’s Rachel Bello, who is now swimming at Washington University in Missouri, won both the 100 breaststroke and 200 IM.
Scarlet wanted it pretty badly in that meet, swimming personal bests in both races. But she admits the pressure of repeating as a champion got to her.
“The first year we were like, ‘If it happens, it happens,’” she said. “I didn’t realize I was ranked No. 1 going in, then in prelims I got second and was like, ‘Oh, I guess I can actually do this.’ I was excited to give it a shot. The second year, everyone expected me to do it again, and I was expecting me to do it again. There was definitely more competition.”
The competition is expected to be stiff again this year, which is OK by the Maisons. Winning another Finals title is certainly a goal, but beyond that, hitting cut times for the USA Swimming Futures Championships is the goal. The times are 1:05.49 in the 100 breast and 2:05.39 in the 200 IM. Her personal bests in the events are 1:06.91 and 2:08.3, respectively.
Better competition could help bring the best out of Scarlet, like it always has. Whether it was trying to catch her older sister Sierra, who is now a sophomore swimmer at Saginaw Valley State, or the other swimmers in the bigger club meets she’s swam throughout her life, she’s at her best when she’s forced to rise to another level.
“It’s not like she’s always been ahead,” Shawn Maison said. “She’s swam against kids faster than her for her entire swim career. It’s not new to her to not win, but it would be new to her to not race. … Scarlet has always had that back end of a race. It didn’t matter if she was running cross country or track, or even in a soccer game, she always had more energy at the end to finish. That’s nothing new to her.”
With competition comes pressure, even if it’s a different pressure than she faced a year ago. But this season, Scarlet feels more physically and mentally prepared to take all of that on heading into the Finals.
A nagging knee injury held her out of track this spring, so she spent her time lifting, which has her feeling much stronger in the pool.
She also has that motivation, which, while now stronger than a year ago, was always there.
“Ever since I was little, I tried to be the best in the room,” she said. “I always liked the competition. When there’s no competition, it has to come from yourself. For one, I’m in love with swim; that really helps. I like being able to feel better in the pool every day. The days where you feel bad in the pool are not very fun. So you keep training and training, and when you beat your PRs and get better, that motivates you to keep going.
“Michael Phelps always says, ‘What is your Why?’ My Why is just that I want to get better and always have fun. And definitely the success. That’s the best part.”
Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Standish-Sterling’s Scarlet Maison swims the butterfly this season. (Middle) Maison, a Finals champion in 2021, has qualified for every individual event this fall. (Photos courtesy of the Maison family.)
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.)