LAKE ORION – The Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood girls swimming & diving team had waited nearly a year for a chance to make amends.
So, what was another two months of waiting?
Cranbrook came oh-so-close at the last Lower Peninsula Division 3 Finals in November of 2019, finishing just 11 points behind East Grand Rapids for the top spot.
Cranbrook’s wait for redemption was only at six days before a state-mandated pause in November due to the COVID-19 pandemic forced a stoppage in the season and Cranbrook to wait longer.
But after an additional two months of wondering, waiting and training, the season was able to resume and Cranbrook finally finished its path to avenging what happened at the previous year’s meet.
This time, Cranbrook took home the bigger championship trophy, scoring 379 points to easily best the field at Lake Orion High School.
Hamilton was second with 199 points, while Bloomfield Hills Marian was third with 192.
Marian was swimming with heavy hearts after it was announced Thursday night that longtime athletic director David Feldman had died from COVID-19.
Reigning champion East Grand Rapids opted out of the Finals, but was slated to compete in Division 2 regardless.
It was Cranbrook’s second Finals title in four seasons after it last won in 2017.
All in all, it wasn’t a bad way for Cranbrook head coach Paul Ellis to break into the program in his first year at the helm.
“It’s phenomenal, Ellis said. “It makes me so incredibly happy as a coach. The credit goes back to all the girls on the team. Every single girl that was there today scored. Every girl contributed. That says everything about the character of the girls, their tenacity and dedication to what we have been doing.”
Cranbrook had the perfect blend of first-place star power and depth to amass their points.
The star power was provided by the tandem of Justine Murdock and Gwen Woodbury, who both will swim collegiately in the Big Ten.
Headed to Northwestern, Murdock won the 200-yard individual medley (2:08.19) and 100 backstroke events (55.04), setting pool records in both events.
Murdock won the backstroke for a third year in a row and the individual medley for a second-straight season in finishing with five career Finals titles.
“It was really hard not only for me and my team, but for everyone in Michigan,” Murdock said. “Pool space has been hard to come by this fall. We’ve had our set of roadblocks. To be here and to be able to be putting up the times I’ve been able to put up and our team has been able to put up, it shows how dedicated we were to finish the season and finish what we started in August.”
Signed with Ohio State, Woodbury won the 100 freestyle (1:48.31) and 200 freestyle (50.29) events to also finish with five career individual titles.
Woodbury won the 100 freestyle as a freshman and junior and the 200 freestyle as a freshman.
As was the case with Murdock, her times were pool records.
“It just feels really good,” Woodbury said. “The whole waiting and wondering if we would have a state meet and then waiting again, it makes it all worth it. It’s so exciting to see all my teammates swim fast as well. It’s the best feeling in the world.”
The twosome helped Cranbrook sweep all three relays as well, so essentially Murdock and Woodbury had a hand in Cranbrook winning seven of the meet’s 12 events.
“I’m really proud to finish it off with these girls in my senior year,” Murdock said. “It’s so rewarding and super exciting.”
Other event winners were Williamston junior Gwen Eisenbeis in the 50 freestyle (23.87), Otsego junior Abie Sullivan in diving (455.50), Flint Powers Catholic senior Lara Wujciak in the 100 butterfly (56.77), Plainwell junior Riley Nugent in the 500 freestyle (5:06.47) and Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett junior Ginger McMahon in the 100 breaststroke (1:03.31).
PHOTOS: (Top) Cranbrook Kingswood's Justine Murdock swims to one of her two championships Saturday at Lake Orion. (Middle) A Holland Christian swimmer competes. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
The addition of two games to basketball regular-season schedules and a new series of wrestling weight classes are likely the most noticeable Winter 2022-23 changes as an estimated 65,000 athletes statewide take part in 13 sports for which the Michigan High School Athletic Association sponsors postseason tournaments.
Girls gymnastics and boys ice hockey teams were able to begin practice Oct. 31, with the rest of those sports beginning in November – including also girls and boys basketball, girls and boys bowling, girls competitive cheer, girls and boys skiing, Upper Peninsula girls and boys and Lower Peninsula boys swimming & diving, and girls and boys wrestling.
A variety of changes are in effect for winter sports this season, including a several that will be noteworthy and noticeable to teams and spectators alike.
Basketball remains the most-participated winter sport for MHSAA member schools with 33,000 athletes taking part last season, and for the first time, basketball teams may play up to 22 regular-season games. This increase from the previous 20-game schedule allows more games for teams at every high school level – varsity, junior varsity and freshman.
Another significant change has been made in wrestling, as the majority of boys wrestling weight classes have been adjusted for this season in anticipation of a national change coming in 2023-24. The updated boys weight classes are 106, 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 144, 150, 157, 165, 175, 190, 215 and 285 pounds. Only 215 and 285 remain from the previous lineup. There is also one change to girls weight classes, with the 255 class replaced by 235 to also align with national high school standards.
A series of notable changes will affect how competition takes place at the MHSAA Tournament levels. In hockey, in addition to a new classification process that spread cooperative and single-school programs evenly throughout the three playoff divisions, the MHSAA Tournament will employ two changes. The Michigan Power Ratings (MPR) will be used to seed the entire Regional round, not just the top two teams, and prior to the start of Semifinals, a seeding committee will reseed the remaining four teams in each division with the top seed in each then facing the No. 4 seed, and the No. 2 seed facing No. 3.
Bowling also will see an MHSAA Tournament change, as the Team Regional format will mirror the long-standing Team Final with teams playing eight Baker games and two regular games at both levels. And as also applied during the fall girls season, there is a new qualification process for divers seeking to advance to Lower Peninsula Boys Swimming & Diving Finals. In each of the three divisions, each Regional will be guaranteed 10 qualifiers for the Finals, with six more “floating” qualifier entries to be distributed to the Regionals that have one of the previous year’s top six returning Finals divers in their fields. If a team changes division from the previous season, any floating top-six spots are added to the six already allowed in the school’s new division.
A gymnastics rules change provides an opportunity for additional scoring during the floor exercise. A dance passage requirement was added in place of the former dance series requirement to encourage creativity and a more artistic use of dance. The dance passage requires gymnasts to include two Group 1 elements – one a leap with legs in cross or side split position, the other a superior element.
In competitive cheer, the penalty for going over the time limit in each round was adjusted to one penalty point for every second over the time limit, not to exceed 15 points. The new time limit rule is more lenient than the past penalty, which subtracted points based on ranges of time over the limit.
The 2022-23 Winter campaign culminates with postseason tournaments, as the championship schedule begins with the Upper Peninsula Girls & Boys Swimming & Diving Finals on Feb. 18 and wraps up with the Boys Basketball Finals on March 25. Here is a complete list of winter tournament dates:
Districts – March 6, 8, 10
Regionals – March 13, 15
Quarterfinals – March 21
Semifinals – March 23-24
Finals – March 25
Districts – Feb. 27, March 1, 3
Regionals – March 7, 9
Quarterfinals – March 14
Semifinals – March 16-17
Finals – March 18
Regionals – Feb. 24-25
Finals – March 3-4
District – Feb. 17-18
Regionals – Feb. 25
Finals – March 2-3
Regionals – March 4
Finals – March 10-11
Regionals – Feb. 20-March 1
Quarterfinals – March 4
Semifinals – March 9-10
Finals – March 11
Regionals – Feb. 13-17
Finals – Feb. 27
Swimming & Diving
Upper Peninsula Girls/Boys Finals – Feb. 18
Lower Peninsula Boys Diving Regionals – March 2
Lower Peninsula Boys Finals – March 10-11
Wrestling – Team
Districts – Feb. 8-9
Regionals – Feb. 15
Finals – Feb. 24-25
Wrestling – Individual
Districts – Feb. 11
Regionals – Feb. 18
Finals – March 3-4
The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,500 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.3 million spectators each year.