Performance: DeWitt's Jordyn Shipps

September 13, 2019

Jordyn Shipps
DeWitt junior – Swimming

The Panthers’ standout won the 200-yard freestyle (1:56.91) and 100 butterfly (58.77) at her team’s DeWitt Invitational on Saturday against a field that included ranked teams Chelsea and Grand Rapids Northview. Although the season is only a few weeks old, both times would’ve placed at last year’s Lower Peninsula Division 2 Finals and she finished ahead of 2018 Finals placers or qualifiers in both races – earning Shipps the first MHSAA “Performance of the Week” of the 2019-20 school year.

Shipps finished fifth in the butterfly and sixth in the 200 individual medley at last year’s LPD2 Finals, swimming also on the seventh-place 200 medley and 13th-place 200 freestyle relays. She was sixth in the butterfly and fourth in the IM in LPD3 as a freshman in 2017, also swimming on two placing relays along with her oldest sister Sydney. Jordyn is the third daughter and youngest sibling from this generation of one of the best-known swim families in the Lansing area; Sydney was a six-time Finals individual placer over her last three seasons of high school and competes now at Saginaw Valley State University, and their father Steve Shipps was a five-time LP Class B Finals champion from 1986-88 who went on to earn All-America honors at Michigan State University. Middle sister Ashley was a standout distance runner, graduating from DeWitt this spring, and is a freshman competing at Western Michigan University.

Jordyn changed up her swim training this summer from sprint-based to more middle distance to “branch out a bit,” she said, and the 200 free is among races she’s also considering swimming at this season’s Finals in November. She’ll no doubt have an opportunity in two years to follow her sisters and compete at the college level in addition to shining academically – Jordyn carries a 4.0 GPA and ranks among the top 10 percent of her graduating class academically. She’s considering engineering and pre-medical studies as possible options when that time comes – she enjoys the math and process of engineering, and the opportunity to impact people’s lives in medicine. For now, she’s making another giant impact on a DeWitt swimming & diving team that finished fourth Saturday coming off a 12th-place LPD2 Finals finish a year ago – and doesn’t have a senior this fall.

Coach Gregg Brace said: “Jordyn sets high standards for herself. She is frequently the first person in the water at practice. She works hard all the time and doesn’t back off when practice gets hard. She expects to be challenged in practice, and if she feels she isn’t getting challenged she will let me know. … Having a student like Jordyn on the team helps to build our positive team culture. Win or lose she always reaches out to her opponents to congratulate them after every race. She encourages her teammates and leads by example. She is the first to start on setup and cleanup before and after meets. Her attitude really helps build our team-first focus.”

Performance Point: “Early this season we started to create a very positive and fun environment within our team, so that’s helped me swim faster – it’s easy to swim faster when you’re having fun,” Shipps said. “So now that we’ve created that positive and fun environment, I feel more motivated to go fast and wanting to go fast because I have the most supportive team ever. And the other thing that helps with the invitational and going fast was Coach Brace – we’ve been doing some different training this year, just those tough sets that he always gives us to challenge us have really been helpful. … I really wasn’t expecting to swim that fast last weekend. We had great competition there – we never get to see Northview or Chelsea or places like that, so it was just nice to have competition like that. To have those people to race against I think really helped me to pace off of them and try to go fast.”

On a mission: “This year we have a pretty young team. We’re not graduating any seniors, so everyone on the team will be coming back next year. I think (Coach Brace) sees a lot of potential with us. We have some freshmen with a lot of potential (and) they have a background in club swimming. I think he’s trying to make a base for us, so we can continue it throughout the year and continue to do good this year and next year.”

No seniors, but many leaders: “Our junior class has seven or eight kids in it, so all seven or eight are stepping up to leadership roles. We all play a part in how we lead the team and in showing the underclassmen what to do in certain situations. It’s been nice to not only have captains step up but have everyone in the junior class help the underclassmen to get into a routine with training and school. The balance is always hard between school and swimming, and our junior class is very helpful with helping other people, which is good.”

Shipps sail together: “I really wasn’t going to join swimming until my older sisters did – they kinda pushed me to join the sport. I saw them at practice and meets and said I was like, ‘Wow, I want to do that. That’s looks fun.’ (My dad) was the head of our club, so he guided me into program, but it was really my older sisters that made me want to do the sport. … It’s super fun and supportive. As a family we always have that competitive edge. So it helps to have people guide me through different situations, and it’s just nice to have people there for me who know what it’s like to be in that stressful situation and that stressful race and what to do. They’ve been super helpful and supportive toward me. I couldn’t imagine it any other way.”

Ready to race: “I’m super confident about where I’m at right now this year, especially with the way Coach Brace has been training us. I’m very confident leading up to the state finals. I have different goals this year: I’m trying to be at the top of the state of course; first place or second place is where I’m aiming now, (and I have) a lot of best times I’m hoping for. I think this might be the year where I have those breakthrough swims.”

– Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

PHOTOS: (Top) DeWitt's Jordyn Shipps races in the 100 freestyle during a dual last season against St. Johns. (Middle) Shipps swims the backstroke; she won both events at that meet. (Photos by TCP Photography.)

3 Receive National Honors from NHSACA, Coaching Pair Named to Hall of Fame

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

July 11, 2024

One of the longest-serving members of the MHSAA Representative Council and two longtime Michigan high school coaches have received highest honors this summer from the National High School Athletic Coaches Association.

Brighton athletic director John Thompson was named Athletic Director of the Year during the NHSACA’s annual conference June 26 in Bismarck, N.D. He has supervised the Bulldogs’ highly-accomplished athletic program for two decades and served on the Representative Council the last 14 years, including currently as vice president.

Thompson also this year received the Thomas Rashid Athletic Director of the Year Award from the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (MIAAA). Brighton was selected as an MIAAA exemplary athletic program in 2015 and as an ESPN unified champion school in 2018, the latter recognizing its statewide leadership in cultivating unified sport opportunities.

Additionally, Farmington Hills Mercy girls golf coach Vicky Kowalski and Livonia Stevenson girls swimming & diving coach Greg Phil were named NHSACA National Coach of the Year in their respective sports.

Kowalski completed her 46th season coaching Mercy last fall by leading the program to its second-straight Lower Peninsula Division 2 championship and fourth MHSAA Finals title overall. She also in January was named the 2022-23 National Coach of the Year in her sport by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Coaches Association. She was inducted into the Michigan High School Coaches Association (MHSCA) Hall of Fame this year for both golf and bowling.

Phil has coached girls swimming & diving since 1976, including at Stevenson since 1985. After winning the Kensington Lakes Activities Association East title, the most recent of several league championships under his leadership, Stevenson finished 16th at last season’s Lower Peninsula Division 1 Finals and previously had placed Finals runner-up twice. Phil was named to the MHSCA Hall of Fame in 2012.

All three honorees were nominated for the national recognition by the MHSCA. Beal City baseball coach Brad Antcliff, now-retired Leland volleyball coach Laurie Glass, Ann Arbor Greenhills boys tennis coach Eric Gajar and Lowell wrestling coach R.J. Boudro also were National Coach of the Year finalists.

Additionally, longtime softball coaches Kay Johnson of Morenci and Kris Hubbard from Ottawa Lake Whiteford were inducted into the NHSACA Hall of Fame. Johnson went over 1,000 career wins this spring and has led her program since 1993, including to Class C championships in 1985 and 1986. Hubbard retired after the 2019 season with an 865-380-3 record since taking over in 1974, with Class D titles in 1984, 1985 and 1987.