Grand Haven senior - Swimming
The Buccaneers’ standout will graduate next spring as one of the most accomplished athletes in Grand Haven history and one of the top high school swimmers in Michigan all-time. She won her fourth and fifth individual MHSAA Finals championships at Saturday’s Lower Peninsula Division 1 Finals at the Holland Aquatic Center to earn the MHSAA “Performance of the Week” – and ranks among the nation’s fastest high school swimmers in both of her events this fall.
Ackerman earned her third straight championship in the 200-yard individual medley (1:57.61) and won the backstroke (54.70) for the second-straight year. She also teamed with senior Alonna Clark and juniors Ocean Veldhouse and Mary Violet Springer on the runner-up 400 freestyle relay (3:27.92) and with Springer, Veldhouse and junior Georgia Basil on the ninth-place 200 medley relay (1:47.58). Her IM time was the second-fastest in MHSAA Finals history, from all divisions/classes, behind her record-setting time from 2018. The superiority in the IM is evidence of her impressive versatility – she holds Grand Haven records in that race but also the 200 and 500 freestyles, butterfly, backstroke and breaststroke, and has been part of all three school-record relays. Grand Haven as a team finished seventh at Saturday’s Finals, up from 10th a year ago, 12th her sophomore year and 15th when she was a freshman in 2016.
Next up for Ackerman will be another club season as she prepares to swim at next summer’s Olympic Trials and then join University of Michigan’s program, which finished third at last season’s NCAA Championships. She expects to swim the 200 and 400 IM races, freestyle and backstroke moving forward, with an eye on also competing at the 2024 Olympic Trials. Her IM time from Saturday is the fastest by a high school swimmer in the nation this fall according to swimcloud.com, and her backstroke time ranks 12th nationally. Ackerman, who also played high school tennis as a freshman, carries a 4.11 grade-point average that places her among the top 15 academically in her graduating class at Grand Haven. Math and science always have been her strengths – and she’s planning to study engineering at U-M.
Coach Doug Thorne said: “Kathryn is by far one of the most passionate, but humble student-athletes I've ever coached. Her love for the sport is like no other.”
Performance Point: “I think the biggest thing was just having the chance to spend my last high school state meet with the girls that I started swimming with – I’ve been swimming with some of the same girls since I was 8 years old, so it was bittersweet,” Ackerman said. “But it was a lot of fun to finish off the meet with the 400 freestyle relay where we were runner-up, and to swim to those two championships was a lot of fun too. To finish off on that note was good.”
Go Bucs: “High school sports have been incredible. Going into high school swimming, I wasn't expecting to accomplish this much just because I've been so familiar with club sports my entire life. To go through these four championship meets and set records, and experience all of these accomplishments that I have, it's been incredible and I wouldn't ask for anything more from high school sports. … (I’ll miss most) the team and the team atmosphere. The girls are so supportive and encouraging at every meet. They're behind the lane, cheering you on, and always wished me good luck before races. So I'll definitely miss the team and obviously the coaches and everyone that surrounds that sport too.”
Go State to Go Blue: “Actually, my entire family, they’re pretty big Michigan State fans. So it’s kinda hard to make the switch (to U-M), but just recognizing that Michigan has such an excellent swim program and school made it easier to make the switch. My family is supportive of anything I do.”
Plan to succeed: “Growing up, I always just focused a lot on my stroke technique. It wasn’t always about swimming the most yards, or high-intensity workouts. It was about doing drills and starting that foundation so I could go faster in high school. It definitely paid off in these four years … and the times that I have right now are looking really good going into Michigan. So I’m looking forward to the next chapter, but I definitely have to thank all of my coaches for all of the work that they’ve done for me. I appreciate all of them and the support they’ve shown me throughout this process too.”
Learning to lead: “There have been some girls that I've swam with on my club team in Holland, and they have always been so encouraging and supportive of their teammates. I not only look up to them for their characteristics of being supportive and encouraging, but they're also super hard-working, and they're fast, so I've always had them as role models. … It's helpful to have someone who has been that kind and supportive to me. They've exemplified so well what a good leader is. It was helpful to have that foundation as I went through high school and was the leader of the younger girls. (Also) my older sister Anna was on the high school team through her four years too, and she was elected as a captain her junior and senior year. S I also learned a lot from my sister on how to be a supportive and encouraging teammate. A lot (of credit) goes out to my sister as well.”
– Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor
Nov. 21: Emily Van Dyke, Southfield Christian volleyball - Report
Nov. 14: Taylor Wegener, Ida volleyball - Report
Nov. 7: Carter Solomon, Plymouth cross country - Report
Oct. 31: Jameson Goorman, Muskegon Western Michigan Christian soccer - Report
Oct. 24: Austin Plotkin, Brimley cross country - Report
Oct. 17: Jack Spamer, Brighton cross country - Report
Oct. 10: Kaylee Maat, Hudsonville volleyball - Report
Oct. 3: Emily Paupore, Negaunee cross country - Report
Sept. 26: Josh Mason, South Lyon soccer - Report
Sept. 19: Ariel Chang, Utica Eisenhower golf - Report
Sept. 12: Jordyn Shipps, DeWitt swimming - Report
PHOTOS: (Top) Grand Haven's Kathryn Ackerman swims to the championship in the 200 IM during Saturday's MHSAA Finals at Holland Aquatic Center. (Middle) Ackerman also repeated as champion in the backstroke. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
Kaylee Draper ♦ Sturgis
Junior ♦ Swimming
Draper joined teammates Kenzy Triezenberg, Ainsley Gump and Emma Garbine to swim the 200-yard medley relay in 1:55.53 on Sept. 7 against Hastings, breaking a school record from 1997. Draper also won the 50 freestyle with a Finals cut time of 25.47 seconds as Sturgis won the dual 92-69. Two days later, she swam on the winning 200 medley again and the 200 freestyle relay and was second in the 50 butterfly as the Trojans won the Mason Sprint Invitational.
She helped Sturgis finish 28th at last season’s Lower Peninsula Division 3 Finals, placing eighth in the 100 backstroke and 14th in the 50 freestyle and swimming on the 15th-place 200 freestyle relay. She also runs cross country during the fall and is a pole vaulter and thrower on the track & field team.
@mhsaasports 🏊♀️POW: Kaylee Draper #tiktalk #questiontime #part2 #subway #michaelphelps #energetic #swim #candy #laughing #emoji #performanceoftheweek #mistudentaid #fyp #MHSAA ♬ original sound - MHSAA
Follow the MHSAA on TikTok.
MHSAA.com's "Performance of the Week" features are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Office of Postsecondary Financial Planning located within the Michigan Department of Treasury. MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 college savings programs (MET/MESP), as well as scholarship and grant programs that help make college Accessible, Affordable and Attainable for you. Connect with MI Student Aid at www.michigan.gov/mistudentaid and find more information on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid.
Past 2023-24 Honorees
(PHOTOS courtesy of the Sturgis Journal.)