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.)

Sobczak goes 4-for-4 Again to Lead Marquette to 3rd-Straight Finals Title

By Jason Juno
Special for

February 17, 2024

MARQUETTE – Thanks to the informative meet announcer, the Upper Peninsula Swimming & Diving Finals crowd gets to learn a little bit about each participant – from basic facts like who their parents are to why they like the upcoming race.

In the sprints, that can generate some predictable answers, like the many athletes who pointed out they like that event because it’s one of the shorter races. 

Before the grueling 500-yard freestyle event, Marquette senior Grace Sobczak and freshman Olive Krueger brought a little levity and originality, both saying it was because they get to beat the other one.

That, however, is easier said than done for anybody.

Sobczak finished her high school career Saturday a perfect 4-for-4 in the event, and she also repeated as the 200-yard individual medley champion and was part of winning 200 and 400 free relay teams at Marquette Senior High School.

Krueger had a great day as well, pushing Sobczak more than anyone else. She was runner-up in a close finish to Sobczak in the 500 while winning the 100 freestyle and helping the 400 free relay to a win.

“They trained right next to each other,” Marquette coach Nathan McFarren said, “and fed off each other. Just incredible to watch. They one-upped each other and pushed each other up until the race every day.”

Kaytlin Roell swims the 100 breaststroke for Marquette.They led Marquette to its third-straight U.P. championship as they and their teammates dominated the nine-team field with 386.5 points; runner-up Gladstone had 258. Ishpeming Westwood took third with Kingsford fourth, Houghton fifth, Sault Ste. Marie sixth, Ishpeming/Negaunee seventh, Rudyard eighth and Manistique ninth.

Sobczak said her dad wasn’t a big fan of the pre-race joke, but she said everyone laughed. And in the end, the duo put on a great 500 race with Krueger coming on strong late.

“I had to push myself in that race a lot,” Sobczak said. 

That’s her favorite event; she’s a distance swimmer and that’s the only true distance event. Winning that one Saturday and making it a perfect 4-for-4 meant a lot to her.

“It’s amazing, crazy,” Sobczak said. “I got up there, and I started crying because it’s so surreal.”

She was even more reflective at the end of the day.

“I’ve been swimming since I was 6 years old. This was my last race at this pool,” Sobczak said. “We’re three in a row, it’s pretty crazy. Last year I got four (U.P. titles), this year I got four, it’s pretty cool.”

Gladstone's Mary Hooks swims to the win in the breaststroke.Her coach said she’s quiet but a great leader. She “stepped it up this year with taking charge as a senior,” McFarren said.

And she has a teammate she can pass the baton to in Krueger. While Krueger finished less than two seconds after Sobczak, the next swimmer was more than 30 seconds behind Krueger.

“I knew it’d be close because we always race together, but I’m glad she won,” Krueger said.

Freshman Kaytlin Roell finished first in the 50 free as Marquette won its 28th U.P. Finals team title and fifth over the last six years. 

Gladstone senior Adrianna Getzloff had a big day, finishing first in the 200 free and the 100 backstroke. She also helped the Braves to a first-place finish in the 200 medley relay.

Two of her teammates also had first-place finishes – sophomore Irene Neumeier won the 100 butterfly and junior Mary Hook took the 100 breaststroke. They were also on the 200 relay team along with Ava Getzloff.

Westwood sophomore Maggie Harvala won the diving competition with a score of 214.90.

McFarren made it a combined 17 Finals championships as coach for boys and girls for Marquette, tying Marquette’s Matt Williams for the meet record.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Marquette's Grace Sobczak swims to a victory in the 500-yard freestyle Saturday. (Middle) Kaytlin Roell swims the 100 breaststroke for Marquette. (Below) Gladstone's Mary Hooks swims to the win in the breaststroke. (Click for more from Jarvinen Photos.)