MARQUETTE — It was a dominating performance by the Marquette girls to say the least as they ran away with the Upper Peninsula swimming & diving title with 352 points Saturday.
The Redettes, who won for the first time in four years, were followed by Kingsford with 217 points and Houghton at 185.
“We’ve been kind of waiting for this,” said junior Mollie Kilpela, who helped the Redettes win the 200-yard medley relay in a school-record 1 minute, 57.2 seconds. “That got us hyped up and excited for the rest of the meet.
“This is a nice way for our team to end the season. We have only one senior on the team. Next year we’re going to be better, I think.”
Joining Kilpela in the day’s first race were sophomores Lexi LaCombe and Erin Vanderschaaf and freshman Kelsey Glover.
Vanderschaaf also helped Marquette set the U.P. Finals and school record in the 400 freestyle relay at 3:48.56, with LaCombe and Kilpela helping the Redettes take second in the 200 freestyle event in a school-record 1:44.65.
“I knew this was going to be pretty special for sure,” said eighth-year Marquette coach Nathan McFerrin. “Overall, this is the best team I’ve had as coach. We were very balanced. In many events we had three place among the top six.
“My coaching technique is it’s difficult to be successful if you don’t trust yourself, teammates and coaches. This was a big culmination of our season, and today it all came together.”
Marquette sophomore Kali McDonough won Friday’s diving competition with 163.9 points.
Vanderschaaf won Saturday’s 500 freestyle (5:14.14), and junior teammate Taryn Aho took the 200 freestyle (2:02.01).
Kingsford senior Peyton Johnson set a U.P. Finals record in the 100 backstroke in 59.51 seconds, shattering the old mark (1:03.32) by Ashley Oliver of Painesdale Jeffers-Ironwood from 2005.
Johnson also helped the Flivvers establish a record in the 200 freestyle relay (1:43.51) and was runner-up to Robertson in the 200 IM (2:17.7).
Joining Johnson on the winning relay were seniors Emily Bruns and Ailie Schoenborn and freshman Sydney Scott.
Sault Ste. Marie sophomore Aliah Robertson set the U.P. Finals record in the 200 individual medley at 2:10.02, topping the previous best by Marquette’s Jenny Laughna (2:12.43) swam in 1994, and retained her 100 butterfly title at 59.4 seconds.
“I always take one or two of my teammates to help me at the starting line,” said Robertson, who was also crowned champion in the 100 breaststroke a year ago. “They encourage me and give me pointers. They help keep my mind off things so I don’t get too nervous. I was really excited when I found out I set the record in the 200 IM. This is a bit of a confidence boost.”
Sault freshman Joanne Arbic was also a double winner, taking the 50 freestyle (25.87) and 100 freestyle (56.21).
Reigning team champion Gladstone had an individual winner in senior Sydney Herioux, who took the 100 breaststroke (1:08.95).
“It was really awesome,” said Herioux, who will attend Saginaw Valley State University this fall and play softball for the Cardinals. “This is the last race I’ll ever swim. It feels great to go out like that.”
PHOTOS: A Marquette swimmer powers off the block during a relay at Saturday's Upper Peninsula Finals. (Middle) Gladstone's Sydney Herioux powers to the win in the breaststroke. (Click for more from Jarvinen Photos.)
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.)