Love of Racing, Podium Pursuit Provide Maison with Plenty of Finals Drive

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

November 8, 2023

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.

Bay & ThumbAfter 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.”

Maison, a Finals champion in 2021, has qualified for every individual event this fall. 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 CostanzoPaul 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.)