By Keith Dunlap
Special for Second Half
ROCHESTER – Farmington Hills Mercy certainly perfected the notion during Saturday’s MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 Finals that you don’t have to win events to become a swimming & diving champion.
The Marlins didn’t have an individual finish first in any event and had runner-up finishes in just two, but they still left Oakland University happier than anyone.
For the first time since 2013 and eighth time in school history, Mercy won an MHSAA Finals championship after collecting a meet-best 277 points, 29 ahead of runner-up Saline’s total of 248.
Farmington/Harrison was third with 192, Ann Arbor Skyline was fourth at 191 and Rockford rounded out the top five with 156.
“I tried to get them to believe that you can win a state meet without winning a single event,” Mercy head coach Mike Venos said. “We had the team that could do that. We knew Saline was going to run with their top-end kids. We just had to offset that with our depth.”
Depth indeed prevailed for Mercy, which had a finisher in the top 10 in 10 of the 12 events.
The best for the Marlins were a second-place finish in the 100-yard backstroke by senior Katie Minnich and a second-place finish by the 400 freestyle relay in the meet’s final race.
The Marlins also had two third-place finishers, two fourth-place finishers, a fifth and a sixth-place finish.
It was the first time guiding a girls team to an MHSAA title for Venos, the longtime head coach at Brother Rice who has led the Warriors to the last four championships in LP Division 1 and six overall.
Venos is in his second year as head coach at Mercy.
While his team ended a four-year title drought, Saline fell just short in an attempt to win its first title since 2014.
The Hornets saw their 200 medley relay win the title with a time of 1:43.60 and junior Maddie Luther win the 200 freestyle in 1:47.69, but Saline couldn’t win another event to further negate the depth Mercy showcased.
It was the fourth runner-up finish for Saline since 2011.
“They had more swimmers and everywhere you looked, they had somebody,” Saline head coach Todd Brunty said. “We just keep knocking on that door trying to stay relevant. Every year, we try to make sure we stay in the conversation.”
The individual star of the Finals was Farmington/Harrison junior Ashley Turak, who found herself at the top of the podium in all four events in which she competed.
Going into the day, it was a repeat scenario for Turak, who like last year was seeded second in both the 50 and 100 freestyles.
Instead of finishing second in the 50 and fourth in the 100 like she did last year, Turak was first in those events this time.
Turak won the 50 freestyle in a meet record time of 22.38, and then won the 100 freestyle with a time of 49.79.
Turak then served as the first leg of Farmington/Harrison’s team that won the 200 freestyle relay with a time of 1:34.67.
In the final event of the day, Turak swam the anchor leg for the 400 freestyle relay team that also finished first with a time of 3:26.35.
“The mood I had going in as a junior was that I had some college offers, so I wanted to prove to everyone I could do it,” Turak said. “I don’t know where I want to go yet.”
Turak will have the coming months to sort through what should be plenty of college offers while also being a member of Farmington Hills Harrison’s last graduating class.
Harrison is set to close its doors following the 2018-19 school year.
“I love representing my school,” Turak said. “I get great academics and it has great sports there. Our football is going to the state finals next week, so that amps me up too. It’s a great atmosphere.”
In addition to Turak’s performance in the 50 freestyle, there were other record-setting performances.
Grand Haven sophomore Kathryn Ackerman set a meet record in the 200 individual medley, winning with a time of 1:57.92.
Rockford junior Morgan Kraus set a meet record with a time of 53.73 in winning the 100 butterfly. Grand Ledge sophomore Lola Mull set a meet record in the 500 with a time of 4:47.32.
PHOTOS: (Top) A pair of Farmington Hills Mercy swimmers dominate an awards podium in helping the Mustangs win the team title Saturday. (Middle) Brighton celebrates a relay runner-up finish. (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.