East Grand Rapids, Holland and Farmington Hills Mercy are among the usual contenders who should again make runs at MHSAA girls swimming and diving championships this weekend.
But competitors from places like Dundee, Walled Lake Western and Waterford will be pushing the annual powers at three Finals located across the Lower Peninsula.
Eastern Michigan University will host the Division 1 Final, with Division 2 at the Holland
Aquatics Center and Division 3 at Oakland University. Preliminaries are Friday and championships will be decided Saturday.
Tickets cost $8, and competition begins at noon both days. Saturday’s championship races will be streamed live at FoxSportsDetroit.com and MHSAA.tv. Click for a full schedule and lists of qualifiers, their seed times and diving orders.
Here are some the teams, relays and individuals who could make the biggest waves:
The contending teams haven’t changed much over the last few seasons. Here’s how the annual favorites are stacking up against each other.
Division 1: Saline vs. Farmington Hills Mercy vs. Holland West Ottawa – Saline has claimed the last two MHSAA championships in this division after ending Ann Arbor Pioneer’s nine-year title run, and will have 21 individual entries this weekend. West Ottawa, last season’s runner-up, comes in with 19. But Mercy, which has won the last four Division 2 championships, will bring in 31 individual entries.
Division 2: Birmingham Groves vs. Holland – Mercy moving into Division 1 opens this meet up for a new champion, and Holland brings in 30 individual entries after finishing runner-up each of the last three seasons. But Groves also should be in the mix. The Falcons won four straight from 2003-06 and has 29 individual qualifiers.
Division 3: East Grand Rapids vs. Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood – Two-time reigning champion East Grand Rapids is bringing 32 individual entries. But two-time reigning runner-up Cranbrook-Kingswood will try to overtake the Pioneers with its 25.
Pass the baton
At least one relay in each Final has a chance to make a run at a specific meet or overall record.
Hudsonville 200 freestyle – Seniors Michaela Rookus and Audra Thornton, sophomore Makayla Myers and junior Danielle Freeman have nearly a two-second edge coming in with a seed time of 1:35.82. Cutting just 14 hundredths of a second would put them on the record book list with the seventh-fastest Finals time.
Holland 200 medley – Senior Courtney Bartholomew, junior Melissa Vandermeulen, freshman Taylor Garcia and sophomore Molly Horren have swam this race in 1:45.26, which would rank fifth-fastest in MHSAA Finals history.
Holland Christian 200 freestyle – The team of senior Kaylie Wierda, sophomore Ashlee Sall, senior Kelsey Weener and freshman Sydney Asselin posted a seed time of 1:38.73. They’ll need to cut less than a second to beat Marian’s Division 3 meet record of 1:37.87 set in 2008.
Athletes to Watch
Courtney Bartholomew, Holland senior – The standout Dutch swimmer will attempt to add to her three individual MHSAA championships and four as part of relays. She has the top seed time in the 100 backstroke (54.53) and second-best in the 200 individual medley (2:05.13) – the two races she won in 2010. She holds the backstroke overall Finals record of 52.45.
Ines Charles, Bloomfield Hills Lahser sophomore – Is seeded first in Division 3 in both the 100 butterfly (57.36) and 100 backstroke (58.38), and also is part of three Lahser relays all seeded among the top four in her meet.
Brooke Edwards, Dundee senior – Will try to add to last season’s Division 3 championship in the 200 freestyle and fourth-place finish in the 100. She has the third-best seed time in the 200 (1:58.77) and sixth-best in the 100 (54.77) coming into this weekend.
Olivia Kassouni, East Grand Rapids junior – Hopes to defend her Division 3 diving championship after winning by 9.3 points in 2010 with a score of 435.80.
Annie Lazor, Birmingham Groves senior – She’s got the top Division 2 seed time of 1:03.69 in the 100 breaststroke amd will be going for her fourth championship in that race; she also holds the overall Finals record of 1:02.10. She’s also seeded first in the 200 IM (2:03.96) and will attempt to add that title as well after finishing second to Bartholomew last season.
Allie Murphy, Walled Lake Western junior – Is back at the Division 2 Final after winning last season’s diving championship with 410.45 points, three more than the runner-up.
Kylie Powrie, Cranbrook-Kingswood junior – Will try to repeat as the 500 freestyle Division 3 champion and has the top seed time in that event of 5:15.11. Her seed time of 2:00.13 in the 200 freestyle is 10th-best coming in.
Sami Stelpflug, Clarkston sophomore – Posted the top Division 1 seed times in both the 200 IM (2:04.14) and 100 breaststroke (1:04.85).
Anna Stephens, East Grand Rapids sophomore – Posted the top Division 3 seed time in the 100 breakstroke (1:06.40) after winning that race in 2010, and is third in the 200 IM (2:13.36).
Maddie Wright, Waterford United freshman – Enters her first MHSAA Final with the top Division 1 seed times in the 200 freestyle (1:50.26) and 100 butterfly (55.16).
Dive in: Holland senior Nicole Cordero is among those hoping to lead the Dutch to the Division 2 championship. She'll swim the 50 and 100-yard freestyles and on two relays.
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.)