Intriguing races are brewing for all three team championships to be decided this weekend at Lower Peninsula Girls Swimming & Diving Finals.
Ann Arbor Pioneer is looking to win a fourth-straight Division 1 title. But Jenison, last year’s Division 2 runner-up, is bringing a loaded lineup to Eastern Michigan University in hoping of providing the strongest challenge in some time after Pioneer won all three recent Finals by at least 100 points.
In Division 3, East Grand Rapids returns after a season away and is another likely favorite as it builds on plenty of recent success as well, but with reigning champion Bloomfield Hills Marian in the mix and Cranbrook Kingswood looking to also make a push.
And Division 2 will have a new champion regardless with EGR switching things up.
Competition begins at noon for Friday’s preliminaries and Saturday’s championships. Friday’s action will begin with swimming, with divers taking the pool approximately 3:30 p.m. at all three sites. All three Finals will be streamed live on MHSAA.tv both days. Click for information on purchasing tickets, plus schedules and qualifiers for all three meets.
Lower Peninsula Division 1 at Eastern Michigan University
Reigning champion: Ann Arbor Pioneer
2022 runner-up: Northville
2023 top-ranked: 1. Ann Arbor Pioneer, 2. Grand Haven, 3. Jenison.
Pioneer has won three straight Division 1 championships, and a fourth consecutive would tie the eighth-longest Girls Swimming & Diving Finals title streak including with its teams that won four straight from 1989-92. Last season’s victory came with 322 points, 104 ahead of Northville, which was then 44 ahead of third-place Saline. Pioneer has 19 entries seeded to score (among the top 16), including all three relays, plus two divers competing. Grand Haven is seeking its first top-two Finals finish since 2000 and 2001 – when it finished runner-up to Pioneer in Class A both seasons – and has 10 individuals and all three relays seeded to score. Jenison was last season’s Division 2 runner-up, posting its best Finals team finish. The Wildcats bring some major star power – among 10 individual entries and three relays seeded to score, four are top seeds, and the team also has two divers.
Grace Albrecht, Jenison senior: After winning the 50-yard freestyle in Division 2 her first three seasons – and also swimming on two championship relays last year – Albrecht is seeded first this weekend in the 50 (23.35) and 100 backstroke (53.69) and is expected to swim on at least one top-seeded relay. She also was Division 2 backstroke runner-up in 2022.
Stella Chapman, Ann Arbor Pioneer senior: She’ll look to add to her career haul of four individual and six relay championships, and is the reigning title winner in the backstroke and 200 individual medley. She’s seeded first in the IM (2:00.01) and backstroke (53.66), the latter three-hundredths of a second faster than the meet record she swam a year ago.
Elizabeth Eichbrecht, West Bloomfield sophomore: After a 2022 Finals debut that included championships in the 200 and 500 freestyles, Eichbrecht is seeded first in both at 1:47.96 and 4:50.15, respectively. That 500 time is more than 12 seconds faster than the rest of the field and less than six seconds off the all-Finals record of 4:44.47.
Sophia Umstead, Jenison junior: She won the IM and 100 breaststroke last season in Division 2 and swam on two championship relays, and enters this weekend as the top seed in the 100 butterfly (54.02) by nearly three seconds and breaststroke (1:01.67) as well. She’s also expected to swim on at least one top-seeded relay.
Anna Wiechertjes, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern/Eastern senior: Last season’s runner-up in the 50 and third-place finisher in the 100 freestyle is seeded first in both with times of 23 seconds and 50.73, respectively.
Jenison 200 freestyle relay: The Wildcats enter with a seed time of 1:33.79, only 43 hundredths of a second off the meet record swam in 2018 – and they should get a strong push from contenders Grand Haven and Pioneer.
Ellie Seiter, Oxford senior: Oxford had the two highest-scoring divers at Division 1 Regionals, with Seiter at 433.05 and followed by teammate Tristan Krajcarski at 427.60. Seiter finished fourth last season while diving for Grand Blanc.
Lower Peninsula Division 2 at Holland Aquatic Center
Reigning champion: East Grand Rapids
2022 runner-up: Jenison
2023 top-ranked: 1. Farmington Hills Mercy, 2. Ann Arbor Skyline, 3. Midland Dow.
With last season’s top two finishers competing in different divisions this season, there will be a new champion and runner-up – although the favorite is plenty familiar with the experience. Mercy has won 11 team titles in this sport, most recently in 2019 in Division 1, and tied for fourth in Division 1 last fall. All three relays and 15 individual entries are seeded to score, with three divers competing, and two Mercy relays are top-seeded. Skyline’s championship came in 2015 in Division 1, and the Eagles finished sixth in Division 2 a year ago and have three relays and nine individuals seeded to score this weekend. Dow is seeking its first top-two Finals finish and placed seventh a year ago. The Chargers also have three relays and nine individual entries seeded to score.
Brooklyn Beauch, Byron Center senior: She finished ninth in the butterfly last season and could finish her high school career with a major splash entering as the top seed in that race (54.25) – her time three-tenths of a second off the meet record – and with the third seed in the backstroke (56.49).
Kelley Hassett, Birmingham Seaholm senior: Last season’s 500 freestyle champion also has a relay title from 2021 and will enter her last Finals as the second seed in the 200 free (1:52.50) and 500 (5:00.37) and expected to swim on the second-seeded 400 freestyle relay.
Tess Heavner, Fenton junior: She finished second in the IM and fifth in the breaststroke a year ago and is top-seeded this weekend in the IM (2:04.21) by more than two seconds and backstroke (56.04) as well.
Amylia Higgins, Farmington Hills Mercy senior: She tied for the top seed in the 50 (23.88) and brings in the sixth seed in the 100 free (53.44) after finishing fifth in the 200 and fourth in the 500 in Division 1 last season.
Emma Klotz, South Lyon sophomore: She’s expected to make a big jump from a solid debut last season of ninth in the 100 free with two top-five relay finishes, entering this weekend seeded first in the 50 (23.88 – tied with Higgins) and 100 free (52.58).
Adrienne Schadler, Ann Arbor Skyline freshman: She’s entering her first Finals top-seeded in the 200 (1:50.54) by nearly two seconds and in the 500 (4:58.96) with a time only 33 hundredths of a second off last year’s winner.
Bryce Scully, Berkley senior: She finished fifth in the butterfly and eighth in the breaststroke last season and enters this Finals the top seed in the breaststroke (1:05.07) and fourth in the butterfly (57.91).
Bella Emery, Holt senior: She finished 11th in Division 1 last season and posted the highest Regional score last week in Division 2 (402.80) by more than 50 points.
Lower Peninsula Division 3 at Oakland University
Reigning champion: Bloomfield Hills Marian
2022 runner-up: Holland Christian
2023 top-ranked: 1. East Grand Rapids, 2. Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, 3. Bloomfield Hills Marian.
East Grand Rapids is swimming for a third-straight Finals championship and seventh in eight seasons after winning Division 2 a year ago. All three relays are seeded first or second, with 20 individual entries seeded to score and four divers competing. Reigning champion Marian has all three relays and nine individual entries seeded to score, and Cranbrook – seventh in Division 3 last season – has all three relays and 11 individual entries seeded to finish among the top 16 in their respective events, plus two divers competing.
Ellery Chandler, East Grand Rapids sophomore: She finished third in the breaststroke, 12th in the IM and swam on championship and runner-up relays in Division 2 as a freshman, and comes into Division 3 as the top seed in the breaststroke (1:05.53), ninth in the 50 and likely swimming on two top-two relays.
Kiera Danitz, Ogemaw Heights senior: After finishing third in the 50 and ninth in the 100 freestyle last season, she enters this Finals top-seeded in the 50 (24.42) and 11th in the 100.
Ella Dziobak, Dearborn Divine Child sophomore: The reigning champion in the 500 and runner-up in the 200 free is the top seed in the 500 (5:06.29) by more than five seconds and second in the 200 (1:52.84).
Julijana Jelic, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood senior: She’s the reigning backstroke champion and was fourth in the IM a year ago as well; she’s the third seed this time in the backstroke (58.94) and fourth in the IM (2:12.01) and likely to swim on two top-three relays.
Scarlet Maison, Standish-Sterling junior: The IM champion as a freshman in 2021, she finished third in that race and second in the breaststroke last season. She is seeded this weekend first in the IM (2:08.65) and second in the breaststroke (1:07.31).
Lauren McNamara, Flat Rock senior: She’s won the butterfly the last two seasons and also was second in the IM in 2022. She’s seeded first in the butterfly (56.48) by nearly three seconds and third in the IM (2:10.95) this weekend.
Camryn Siegers, Holland Christian freshman: She’ll debut at the Finals with top seeds in the 100 free (51.40) and backstroke (55.88) – the latter time 3.04 seconds ahead of the field – and may swim on two top-three relays as well.
Kate Simon, East Grand Rapids junior: She was third in both the IM and 100 free and swam on winning and third-place relays in Division 2 last season, and will enter this weekend top-seeded in the 200 free (1:51.13), second in the 100 (51.97) and also likely to swim on two top-two relays.
Annabelle Williams, Mian senior: The reigning 200 free champion also finished third in the 100 free last season. She’s seeded fourth in the 200 (1:54.83) and third in the 100 (52.57) this weekend.
Laney Wolf, Wayland sophomore: She debuted with championships in the 50 and 100 freestyles and two top-six relay finishes a year ago. She’ll look to encore entering as the fourth seed in the 50 (24.54) and 100 (53.55) and possibly swimming on two top-five relays.
Maria Colombo, East Grand Rapids senior: She finished fourth in Division 2 last season with a 412.25 – after finishing third in Division 3 as a sophomore – and her 444.75 at her Regional last week was the highest score in any division.
Kaitlyn Molnar, Grosse Ile senior: The reigning Division 3 diving champion won last year with a score of 360.05 and won her Regional last week with a 409.75 – second only to Colombo in Division 3 and higher than all three winning scores in Division 2.
PHOTO Ann Arbor Pioneer's Stella Chapman powers to the win in the 200-yard individual medley at last season's Lower Peninsula Division 1 Finals. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)
WEST BLOOMFIELD — When she started high school swimming last fall, West Bloomfield sophomore Elizabeth Eichbrecht didn’t know what expectations to have, given she knew full well the high level of competition there was throughout the state.
Well, after two seasons, it’s safe to say Eichbrecht has blown any expectations she had out of the water, pun intended.
At the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 Finals on Nov. 17-18 at Eastern Michigan University, Eichbrecht won her third and fourth individual championships.
She won the 200-yard freestyle in a time of 1:48.08, more than three seconds ahead of the next finisher. The winning time qualified for All-America recognition and bested her first-place time from the 2022 Finals by 0.34 seconds.
Later on, Eichbrecht won the 500 freestyle in a time of 4:47.66, more than 11 seconds ahead of the rest of the field. Her All-American time in that event was more than five seconds better than her winning time in 2022.
Two years, four Finals titles. Not too shabby.
“Yes it’s surprising, because there are so many fast girls and we are all very competitive,” Eichbrecht said.
Eichbrecht already holds six school records – in all four freestyle events, the 200 individual medley and 100 butterfly.
She also owns Oakland Activities Association records in the 200 and 500 freestyles and the 100 butterfly.
“I like the distance events more, mainly because I don’t have to all-out sprint,” Eichbrecht said.
West Bloomfield head coach Ronson Webster said the big reason why Eichbrecht was even better this year as a sophomore after making such an impact as a freshman wasn’t necessarily because she was bigger and stronger, although those were contributing factors.
Mainly, her success this year was the validation that she belonged after such a great freshman season.
“She gained more confidence this year going into her races,” he said. “She focused on racing her race and not who was next to her. Meeting the time we worked for was the goal. Winning is a bonus.”
While Eichbrecht excels at so many events, her specialty has been the 200 and 500 freestyles, which is stating the obvious given the Finals titles she has won in those events.
“Her training is very specific as it is for every swimmer on our team,” Webster said. “Everyone is trained differently. Her technique is very important and specific to her event and body size. Since she is shorter, she can’t swim the same as a tall person. Having the right technique designed for the swimmer and the correct race plan goes a long way.”
Eichbrecht next will focus on her club season for Supernova Swim Team based out of Farmington Hills, and she already is looking forward to competing at the Winter Junior Nationals in Columbus from Dec. 6-9.
By the time her career is over, it’s safe to say Eichbrecht might be the best all-time from a West Bloomfield school that’s not known as much for swimming as other Oakland County powers such as Farmington Hills Mercy or the Birmingham schools. But Eichbrecht is relishing putting her school on the swimming map with all her success so far.
“I love swimming at WB,” she said. “My teammates are amazing, and they work super hard. I’m super proud of all the work they put in this season, and I can’t wait for next season.”
Keith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties
PHOTOS (Top) West Bloomfield’s Elizabeth Eichbrecht swims the winning 200-yard freestyle Nov. 18 at Eastern Michigan University. (Middle) Eichbrecht talks with runner-up Yan Yee Adler from Ann Arbor Pioneer after also winning the 500 freestyle. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)