Performance: Brighton's Taylor Seaman

September 30, 2016

Taylor Seaman
Brighton senior – Swimming & Diving

Seaman already will graduate next spring as one of the top swimmers in Brighton history. As a sophomore two seasons ago, she became just the second from her school to win an MHSAA championship in the sport, finishing first in the 100-yard freestyle at the Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final. Last week she helped the Bulldogs make more history, as they beat reigning LP Division 2 champ Dexter for the first time in 22 years, 98-88. Seaman won the 100 freestyle (51.62) and swam on winning 200 medley (1:51.97) and 200 freestyle (1:40.46) relays to earn the Michigan National Guard “Performance of the Week.”

Brighton currently is ranked No. 9 in LP Division 1, while Dexter is No. 1 in LP Division 2. Seaman holds school records in the 50 freestyle (23.68 seconds), 100 free (51.59), 200 free (1:55.19), 200 individual medley (2:10.93) and 100 butterfly (58.91.) Her championship in 2014 was the Bulldogs' first at a Finals since Morgan Zebley won the 100 butterfly in 2010, and it helped them to a fourth-place team finish. Seaman finished second in the 100 to Ann Arbor Skyline’s Katie Portz at last season’s LP Division 1 Final, while also repeating her fourth place in the 200 freestyle and swimming on two top-four relays as Brighton finished fifth as a team. 

A top-25 student academically in a class of more than 500, Seaman carries a 4.06 grade-point average and has taken college visits to Brown and Cornell and today began a visit at Ohio State. She’s interested in studying psychology while continuing her swim career at the next level. But first she’ll be a likely favorite in at least one race at this season’s Finals, Nov. 18-19 at Oakland University, with an opportunity to add to the accolades that have led Brighton to hang a poster of her alongside one of Zebley in their pool. 

Coach Jason Black said: “Taylor is the type of athlete that not only brings her ‘A’ game to the swim meets but also to each practice. She attacks each set with an intensity knowing that the workout is going to make her faster at the end of the season. Taylor has helped transform Brighton swimming from a regional player to a state player as we have been a top-10 program the last two years with our eyes on a third year in a row with Taylor leading the way. She recently broke her own school record in the 50 freestyle with a time of 23.68 and is swimming faster in the middle of the season than she ever has. Her work ethic and her drive help lead the team to ever bigger goals. It is going to be hard without Taylor next year, but her swimming has inspired the younger swimmers to be better – and I believe our team will still be reaching for higher goals after she graduates because of how Taylor has led by example.”

Performance Point: “Every year since I was a freshman, and obviously many years before that, it’s been really disappointing to lose to (Dexter),” Seaman said. “We always try our best, but it never seemed to work out, obviously. It would just ruin our week. Last week was just awesome. Jason (Black) told us we had a chance to beat them for the first time in 22 years. We were really motivated to do that. We knew they had lost a couple of good swimmers, and we knew we still had most of our state team from last year and had a few good girls come in as freshmen. I kinda cried when the score was announced at the end."

Pushing ahead: “I feel pretty good about my season at the moment. I, along with other people on the team, we’ve all been going faster right now than what we were doing last year at this time. I would obviously like to go for my best times, and if I could win (at the MHSAA Finals) again, that would be absolutely amazing. I know it will be tough competition; last year it was Katie Portz, but she graduated. I’m actually pretty good friends with her; we used to swim together in the offseason. Having great competition is good because they can push me, and especially when they are friends.”

Leaving a legacy: “I just remember when I was 8, swimming for Brighton Eels, I would see the Morgan Zebley picture on the wall being like, I want to be like her. Now, seeing my poster on the wall, people ask me all the time, ‘Is that you?’ It’s cool that poster will be up there for the next many years. … It’s interesting to see every day at practice. We’ve adjusted to it being there. At first (my teammates) would be like, ‘It’s you, watching yourself swim every day.’”

Going for gold: “I really look up to all of the Olympic swimmers, and how dedicated they are. Missy Franklin, I just love her positive attitude. She didn’t do great at the Olympics this year, but she still had an amazing attitude about it. Allison Schmitt (from Canton) used to swim for my same club team, and I actually broke one of her records – so obviously I want to be like her. She’s amazing.”

Mind on the future: “I would like to do something with psychology. I’m leaning toward the sociological aspects of psychology. I find that very fascinating. I love finding out why we as people do what we do, why we act certain ways in certain situations. Why, when there are multiple doors available, we all funnel into one door. I want to learn why we do that.”

- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor

Every week during the 2016-17 school year, Second Half and the Michigan National Guard will recognize a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.

The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and responds as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our nation's freedom or protect lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster. 

Previous 2016-17 honorees:
Sept. 22: Maggie Farrell, Battle Creek Lakeview cross country Read
Sept. 15: Franki Strefling, Buchanan volleyball Read
Sept. 8: Noah Jacobs, Corunna cross country – 

PHOTOS: (Top) Brighton's Taylor Seaman launches from the starting blocks. (Middle) Seaman will be competing this season to add to her 2014 MHSAA title. (Photos courtesy of the Seaman family.)

East Grand Rapids' Briggs to Receive Deserved Spotlight for Half-Century of Swim

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for

May 17, 2024

EAST GRAND RAPIDS – When the idea was presented to celebrate his coaching milestone, Milton “Butch” Briggs balked at it.

West MichiganThe longtime East Grand Rapids swimming & diving coach doesn’t like to be the center of attention, although his teams certainly have been over the last 50 years as he’s established a pair of perennial state powerhouses. 

“He vehemently said, ‘No, we’re not doing this,’” Pioneers assistant girls coach Gwen Barnes said. “But it’s going to be super cool and so deserving. We need to mark this occasion as a community and swimming community. He has influenced so many people and been an active member of the community for a long time.”

On Saturday, the East Grand Rapids Community Foundation and Alumni Association will commemorate Briggs and his 50 years of coaching at the school.

Briggs took over the East Grand Rapids boys swimming & diving program for the 1972-73 season, and the girls program beginning in the fall of 1974. He has coached 102 seasons total, winning 26 MHSAA Finals championships with the girls and 12 with the boys.

Briggs has always wanted the focus to be on his teams rather than himself.

“He is not one who likes the spotlight,” retired Pioneers athletic director Tim Johnston said. “He is a very private man, but it is awesome that this group of alumni, swimmers and parents want to celebrate him.

“He is one of the best coaches I have ever had the opportunity to work with, but to be completely honest, he is a better person and more than just a coach. That is the truth.”

Past EGR swimmer Kris Ward was a member of the first girls state championship team in 1978.

“He had a huge impact on me,” Ward said. “Just from understanding hard work and dedication and being part of a team. Then following it through. He worked with a variety of people on the team and helped us to come together. It was all about life lessons, and he's teaching the kids that while still being successful.”

Briggs also coached Ward’s daughters Alex, Ashley and Abby.

“He was always about connecting with the kids,” Ward said. “My kids were all able to swim for him, and so I had that experience with him in a different way and seeing how he was with all of my girls on the team.

“He starts with connecting with one person and carries that through to make the success better.” 

Briggs, second from far left, celebrates the 2014 Lower Peninsula Division 3 championship with his girls team. Barnes, an assistant coach for the girls team the past three years, also swam under Briggs from 1984-87.

Her teams won four straight Finals championships and never lost a dual meet.

“There were high expectations for us, and despite them being unspoken, we felt it,” Barnes said. “We wanted and felt this desire to do our best on that team each year, and he instilled this culture of commitment and hard work. Every swimmer had different abilities, but he was able to tap into getting us to do our best.”

Barnes has gained a different perspective of Briggs as his assistant.

While she noted that he still displays the same traits as far as his demeanor, sense of humor, kindness and patience, his devotion to the program and his student-athletes also has never wavered.

“Coaching with him as an assistant, you see how much work and time he puts in that goes unnoticed sometimes,” Barnes said. “To maintain that level of commitment for 50 years is pretty remarkable, and he still has this presence when on the pool deck that challenges everybody to do their best. He set the same standard for everyone, and everyone on the team feels important, which I think is cool.

“He weaves in a lot of stories and lessons from over the years and maintains traditions that I think make current teams feel like they are a part of and building onto the history.”

Briggs, who played football and ran track & field in high school, was inducted into the Grand Rapids Hall of Fame in 2009. The EGR natatorium was named after him in 2014.

Briggs, who taught at Ottawa Hills High School, has received national attention, too. In June 2020, he was named National Girls Swim Coach of the Year by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Coaches Association. Briggs had received the same honor in 2011.

He wrote this of his coaching philosophy as part of the nomination for the NFHS girls swimming award:

“My coaching philosophy has been, and continues to be, a work in progress. I have formed relationships with hundreds of amazing young people. They have taught me life lessons in real time and real situations. As a neophyte coach, the experience revolved around winning. We worked together as a team, supported each other in and out of the pool, and won often. Thankfully, I became aware of the value within each athlete. Today, I attempt to interact with each athlete at every team activity and follow their progress in non-swimming endeavors. In short, when I removed my ego from the team's expectations and outcomes, the entire atmosphere was much more enjoyable and productive. And we are still capable of being successful. The Lord has put me in the right place at the right time.”

Ward said she expects about 200 people to attend Saturday’s celebration.

“He has impacted so many people in the swimming community, and there is something special in what he has created,” Ward said. “All of the kids on the current teams and their families will be there, as well as a lot of different generations. I also know that there will be people coming from far away.”

As far as Briggs’ future, Barnes doesn’t see him stepping down any time soon.

“I don’t really ever see him stopping,” she said. “His passion is EGR swim, and I think he will continue to be a part of the program as he can and wants to be.”

Dean HolzwarthDean Holzwarth has covered primarily high school sports for Grand Rapids-based WOOD-TV for five years after serving at the Grand Rapids Press and MLive for 16 years along with shorter stints at the Ionia Sentinel and WZZM. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Allegan, Kent and Ottawa counties. 

PHOTOS (Top) Longtime East Grand Rapids swimming coach Butch Briggs, right, will be celebrated this weekend for his half-century of coaching the Pioneers. (Middle) Briggs, second from far left, celebrates the 2014 Lower Peninsula Division 3 championship with his girls team. (Top photo by Kris Ward; middle photo by High School Sports Scene.)