By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Swimming may be the sport most reliant on a training schedule, with athletes purposefully prepping for a specific championship day.
This season’s plan dissolved in November for Lower Peninsula Girls Swimming & Diving Finals participants – but in its place, contenders will compete this weekend under historic circumstances after a two-month pause due to COVID-19.
The Division 1 Final will be hosted by Hudsonville High School, with Division 2 at Grand Rapids Northview and Division 3 at Lake Orion. Diving begins Friday at 5:30 p.m., with all swimming starting at 2 p.m. Saturday. All races will be timed Finals – there will be no preliminaries or final heats, but results will be a combination of the fastest times from all heats.
Lower Peninsula Division 1 at Hudsonville
Reigning champion: Farmington Hills Mercy
2019 runner-up: Ann Arbor Pioneer
2020-21 top-ranked: 1. Ann Arbor Pioneer, 2. Saline, 3. Northville.
Farmington Hills Mercy has won the last three Division 1 championships but was only fifth in the most recent rankings from November. Pioneer finished just a half-point behind the Marlins in 2019 and is the favorite to win its first championship since 2008. The Pioneers have an extraordinary 22 entries seeded to score, with six top seeds (including all three relays), plus a diver. Saline, third a year ago, is seeking its first championship since 2014 and first top-two finish since 2017. The Hornets have 13 entries seeded to score including one top seed, plus three divers competing.
Kotoko Blair, Novi junior – She’s the top seed in the 100-yard freestyle (51.56) and second in the 50 (23.67) after finishing third in the 50 and sixth in the 100 in 2019.
Stella Chapman, Ann Arbor Pioneer freshman – One of many Pioneer standouts, she’s seeded first in the backstroke (56.30) and third in the 200 individual medley (2:04.25).
Greta Gidley, Farmington Hills Mercy senior – The reigning 100 freestyle champion and runner-up in the IM has switched up events a bit and is seeded second in the 500 (5:01.86) and fourth in the IM (2:04.33).
Edwina Jalet, Ann Arbor Pioneer junior – She came in fifth in the backstroke and 15th in the IM a season ago, but returns as the top seed in the breaststroke (1:03.00) and sixth in the IM (2:05.34).
Brady Kendall, Plymouth junior – Kendall was third in the butterfly and fifth in the 50 last season and is expected to make a jump – she’s top-seeded in both races with times of 54.53 and 23.22, respectively.
Emily Roden, Northville sophomore – Last season’s butterfly champion (and third-place finisher in the 200 freestyle) as a freshman, Roden should be back in the mix in both seeded second in the butterfly (56.04) and third in the 200 (1:53.15).
Kiersten Russell, Saline senior – Russell could have a memorable last Finals after finishing third in the backstroke and 11th in the IM as a junior. She is the top seed in the 500 (4:59.33) and fourth in the backstroke (56.87).
Annaliese Streeter, Ann Arbor Huron senior – After finishing eighth in both the IM and breaststroke in 2019, Streeter enters this meet the top seed in the IM (2:03.40) and second in the breaststroke (1:03.18) with the latter less than two tenths of a second off the top rank.
Vivian VanRenterghem, Ann Arbor Pioneer junior – She’s seeded first in the 200 freestyle (1:52.82) and seventh in the backstroke (57.89) after finishing second in the 200 and tying for ninth in the 100 free a season ago.
Annie Costello, Ann Arbor Huron senior – Last season’s Division 1 diving champion won with a score of 425.40 and won her Regional this fall by 41 points with a 436.05, the only Division 1 score at any Regional to break 400.
Lower Peninsula Division 2 at Grand Rapids Northview
Reigning champion: Birmingham Seaholm
2019 runner-up: Grosse Pointe South
2020-21 top-ranked: 1. Birmingham Seaholm, 2. East Grand Rapids, 3. Rochester Adams
Seaholm is seeded to win its second-straight championship and third in five seasons. The Maples have 28 entries seeded to score with the top seeds in all three relays plus a diver competing. But this race also changed up quite a bit with East Grand Rapids opting out – the Pioneers won Division 3 last season and were riding a four-season streak of team Finals titles in either Divisions 2 or 3. Adams won Division 2 in 2018 and then finished sixth in Division 1 last season. With 23 entries seeded to score and a diver, the Highlanders should be in the mix again.
Grace Albrecht, Jenison freshman – She’s set to make an impressive Finals debut as the top seed in the 50 (23.76) and fourth seed in the 100 free (52.82).
Elly Belmore, St. Clair Shores Lakeview junior – Last season’s breaststroke champion is slated to swim that race and the IM, entering as the 14th and 12th seeds, respectively, in those races.
Lily Cleason, Ann Arbor Skyline sophomore – After finishing 14th in the 200 free and swimming the backstroke in Division 1 in 2019, she’s seeded third in the 200 (1:53.56) and tops in the backstroke (56.63) at this Division 2 meet.
Samantha Clifford, Birmingham Seaholm sophomore – She was third in the 50 and fifth in the 100 free as a freshman, and could bring the Maples one or two individual championships as the second seed in both the 100 (52.07) and 200 free (1:52.22).
Allison Danko, Rochester Adams senior – As noted above she with her team also swam in Division 1 last season, finishing seventh in the 500 and 11th in the 200 free. She’s the top seed in the 500 (4:57.91) by nine seconds and the fourth seed in the 200 (1:53.97) this weekend.
Madeline Greaves, Farmington senior – After winning four Division 1 relay championships over her first two seasons with now-closed Farmington Hills Harrison, she added Division 2 individual titles last season for Farmington in the IM and 500. She’s seeded first in the IM (2:04.59) this weekend and also in the backstroke (1:04.74).
Gracie Olsen, Fenton junior – The Tigers standout has won individual titles in three events over her first two seasons, the IM as a freshman and the butterfly and 200 free as a sophomore. She’s seeded first in both of her 2019 title races, in 55.17 and 1:51.28, respectively.
Jordyn Shipps, DeWitt senior – She’s hoping to add a first Finals championship after taking fifth in the 200 and fourth in the 100 free in 2019; she’s seeded first in the 100 (51.12) by nearly a second and second in the IM (2:06.07).
Lily Witte, Dexter sophomore – The reigning diving champion cleared the Division 2 Regional field this time by more than 34 points with a 472.00. Her 468.40 at last season’s Final was the second-highest Finals score in Division 2 during the three-division era.
Lower Peninsula Division 3 at Lake Orion
Reigning champion: East Grand Rapids
2019 runner-up: Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood
2020-21 top-ranked: 1. Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, 2. Bloomfield Hills Marian, 3. Hamilton.
Even before East Grand Rapids opted out of the Finals, there was going to be a new champ in this division as EGR was slated to swim in Division 2. Cranbrook after winning this meet in 2017 finished second to the Pioneers the last two – last season by only 11 points. The Cranes enter this weekend with 17 entries seeded to score, including five top seeds, and two competing divers. Marian finished third last season and was runner-up in 2016 and 2017, and will make a run at this weekend’s championship with 14 entries seeded to score, two top seeds, and a diver. Hamilton could build on last year’s fifth-place finish, entering with nine entries seeded to score including one top seed, plus three divers.
Hannah Fathman, Hamilton senior – Fathman won the 50 last season after being part of a championship relay as a sophomore. She enters Saturday seeded second in the 50 (23.91) and fourth in the 100 free (52.92).
Ginger McMahon, Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett junior – McMahon won the breaststroke as a freshman and returns this weekend as the top seed in that race (1:04.27) by more than three seconds and as the second seed in the IM (2:09.14).
Justine Murdock, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood senior – She’ll look to add to her three individual and one relay title won over the last two seasons. She’s the reigning champion in the backstroke and IM and the meet record holder in the former, and she arrives as the top seed in both in 56.76 and 2:08.19, respectively.
Riley Nugent, Plainwell junior – She’s won two straight championships in the 500 and also was second in the 200 free last season. She’s the top seed in the 500 (5:08.11) by nearly five seconds and the second seed in the 200 (1:54.95).
Julia Waechter, Bloomfield Hills Marian junior – She was part of a relay champion as a freshman and could be closing in on one or more individual titles as the top seed in the 50 (23.57) and second seed in the 100 free (51.57). She was fourth in the 50 and fifth in the 100 last season.
Gwen Woodbury, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood senior – Woodbury will finish a career that’s included three individual titles and four relay championships, including a win in the 200 freestyle with a runner-up finish in the butterfly as a junior. She seeded first in the 100 free (51.29) and also in the 200 (1:50.57), by four seconds.
Lara Wujciak, Flint Powers Catholic senior – She was fifth in the butterfly and swam the backstroke last season and should move up significantly in both. She’s seeded first in the butterfly (56.59) and fifth in the backstroke (59.27).
Abigail Sullivan, Otsego junior – After finishing third last season behind two seniors, Sullivan is the likely favorite also based on a strong Regional. Her 442.10 was 73 points higher than anyone else at a Division 3 qualifying meet.
PHOTO: Lindsay Orringer-Hau swims to a ninth place in the butterfly at last season's Division 1 Final, and will be among standouts looking to score big for Ann Arbor Pioneer this weekend. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
Lily Witte ♦ Dexter
Senior ♦ Swimming & Diving
The Dreadnaughts’ phenom capped her high school career with her fourth MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 Finals championship, in the process obliterating the all-Finals record with a score of 554.65, more than 45 points higher than the previous mark. Witte had entered her final MHSAA meet having scored the second-highest score on the all-Finals list, 503.55, last year.
Witte won a junior national championship in 1-meter diving during the summer and has represented Team USA in multiple international competitions – and will be doing so this weekend in junior world championship competition in Montreal. In something of a rarity for elite divers, Witte also swam on two relays for Dexter at Saturday’s Finals, helping her team to a 10th-place finish in the 200-yard freestyle relay and 13th place in the 200 medley. She has signed to continue diving at Indiana University and intends to study computer science.
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(Top photo by High School Sports Scene.)