Performance: Sault Ste Marie's Aliah Robertson

February 23, 2018

Aliah Robertson
Sault Ste. Marie freshman – Swimming

At her first Upper Peninsula Finals on Saturday, Robertson didn’t just break two records – she “obliterated” them, quoting Sault Ste. Marie coach Steve Habusta’s description of the performance. Robertson swam the 100-yard butterfly in 59.27 seconds and the 100 breaststroke in 1:06.31, knocking more than two seconds off both previous meet records to earn the Michigan Army National Guard “Performance of the Week.”

The breaststroke record Robertson broke had stood since 1994, while the previous best in butterfly was posted in 2006. Robertson also contributed to her team’s 200 medley and 200 freestyle relays, with her 50 to start the latter faster than the championship time in that sprint earlier in the meet. Both of her individual event times were Sault Ste. Marie program records as well, and Robertson also has the school’s fastest 200 individual medley in 2:16.28 – which, if swam Saturday, would have won another U.P. Finals title. She also has broken pool records all over the Upper Peninsula during her first high school season.

Robertson plays volleyball during the fall and this spring will join the track & field team and compete in pole vault. She also carries a 4.0 grade-point average. She said she enjoys a good challenge – and should be fun to follow the next three seasons as her times continue to pace the Upper Peninsula and approach the fastest in the Lower Peninsula as well.

Coach Steve Habusta said: “What makes Ali so special as a swimmer isn't her accomplishments. What makes her special is her drive and her character. Ali works as hard as any swimmer I have ever coached. She never complains, misses a set or even an interval. She works through pain, disappointment and fatigue and presses on to accomplish her goals. Her character is second to none; she always has a smile on her face, supports and leads her teammates and is a wonderful all-around kid. What Ali accomplished in the water this year is absolutely remarkable, but pales in comparison to who she is outside of the pool. … Ali's performance at U.P. Finals may be the best individual swimming performance in the history of the U.P., cementing her place as not just one of the best swimmers in the U.P. but one of the best female high school swimmers in all of Michigan.”

Performance Point: “I was pretty confident in what I could do, but I wasn't expecting to do as well as I did,” Robertson said. “I knew I was seeded first in everything, but I wasn't expecting to get the times that I did. I was really shocked. I've never swam that fast.”

Reaching expectations … and then some: “I was kinda just expecting to come in and swim, and next year or the years after that do a little bit better. … It just feels good to be the first one to do something like (breaking those records) in a long time. I'm really excited for the next couple years because there are a lot more freshmen coming up, so I think our relays are going to be pretty good.”

Thank you seniors: “The seniors on our team, they're really fun to be around. They’re really encouraging, so they're my role models on the team.”

Bright future: “Most of the time, the people from downstate are faster than the U.P., so it's good to be that close to the other times. My 100 breast, I really want to improve on that one. I'll probably stay with those two (events), but I want to try to do the 500 free. (My first 500 try) was an interesting race. I'm not really a distance swimmer. I'd like to try it again and see how much better I can do with it.”

Fearless in the pool or pole vault pit: “It's nice to be able to think that you can do things that not many other people can do. It just gives you a rush when you can complete something like that.”

- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor

Every week during the 2017-18 school year, Second Half and the Michigan Army 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 2017-18 honorees:
February 16: Austin O'Hearon, Eaton Rapids wrestling - Read
February 9: Sophia Wiard, Muskegon Oakridge basketball - Read
February 2: Brenden Tulpa, Hartland hockey - Read
January 25: Brandon Whitman, Dundee wrestling - Read
January 18: Derek Maas, Holland West Ottawa swimming - Read
January 11: Lexi Niepoth, Bellaire basketball - Read
November 30: La'Darius Jefferson, Muskegon football - Read
November 23: Ashley Turak, Farmington Hills Harrison swimming - Read
November 16: Bryce Veasley, West Bloomfield football - Read 
November 9: Jose Penaloza, Holland soccer - Read
November 2: Karenna Duffey, Macomb L'Anse Creuse North cross country - Read
October 26: Anika Dy, Traverse City Central golf - Read
October 19: Andrew Zhang, Bloomfield Hills tennis - Read
October 12: Nolan Fugate, Grand Rapids Catholic Central football - Read
October 5: Marissa Ackerman, Munising tennis - Read
September 28: Minh Le, Portage Central soccer - Read
September 21: Olivia Theis, Lansing Catholic cross country - Read
September 14: Maddy Chinn, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep volleyball - Read

PHOTOS: (Top) Sault Ste. Marie’s Aliah Robertson swims a record-setting butterfly during Saturday’s Upper Peninsula Finals. (Middle) Robertson also set a meet record in the breaststroke. (Photos by Shari Robertson.)

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.