By Butch Harmon
Second Half editor
HOLLAND – After coming in a close second at last year’s Lower Peninsula Division 2 girls swimming and diving championships at the Holland Aquatic Center, the Ann Arbor Skyline girls returned to the same pool this year and came away with some different results.
Moving back into Division 1, Skyline won the first-place trophy as it held off Saline in a tight battle that was close throughout.
Skyline totaled 290 team points for the two-day event to win its first girls swimming and diving championship. Saline, last year’s Division 1 champion, placed second with 238 points while Farmington Hills Mercy, winners of two of the previous four LPD1 titles, placed third with 217 points.
“Last year it came down to the last event,” said Skyline coach Maureen Isaac. “We’ve been runner-ups a couple of times, and it’s very frustrating. We were here last year at this pool, and to come back this year and do it here means a lot.”
Skyline’s victory took a total-team effort and was won over the two days of the event. Work that the Eagles did on Friday paid off Saturday, as Skyline set up the scoring opportunities to get the win.
“We moved some kids around on different relay teams Friday,” Isaac said. “We took some chances, and it paid off. We had a great group of girls and they are wonderful as a team. It might sound cheesy, but it’s true; they just feed off each other. ”
It also helped that Skyline had senior Katie Portz to rely on. A senior who has committed to swim collegiately at Texas A&M, Portz was named the swimmer of the meet by the coaches association for her performance. Portz won a pair of individual titles and was also part of two Skyline relay teams that captured championships.
“This is just an incredible feeling,” Portz said. “It feels so good and I’m so happy for all of my teammates. We took it to a new level as a team this year.”
Portz played a big role in helping the team do so. She took first place in the 100-yard freestyle in a new LP Division 1 meet record time of 49.34, breaking her previous record of 50.23 set two years ago.
Portz also captured the 200 freestyle in a time of 1:46.84.
“It felt great winning swimmer of the meet, but the team title means so much more,” Portz said. “Winning the team state is a great feeling. All the hard work that we put into this has paid off.”
Portz’s coach was especially happy that Skyline was able to capture the elusive MHSAA title this season for her standout senior.
“I really wanted us to do this for Katie Portz,” Isaac said. “She has been such an important part of this program both in the pool and out of the pool. It was important for us to do this before her career was done.”
In the 200 freestyle relay, Portz teamed up with sophomore Maddie McAdams, sophomore Emily Lock and senior Kaelan Oldani to take first place in a time of 1:35.67.
Skyline cemented the win as it also captured the final event of the meet, the 400 freestyle relay. Portz anchored the team that included junior Emma Cleason, Lock and sophomore Georgia Mosher that turned in a winning time of 3:24.56.
Skyline also had two other individual champions crowned. Cleason took first place in the 200 individual medley in a time of 2:01.51, while Mosher claimed the 500-yard freestyle in a time of 4:54.65.
Saline junior diver Cam McPherson captured an individual title. She took second place last year and was sixth as a freshman.
“Last year I feel I didn’t focus as much,’ McPherson said. “This year I felt like I had a lot better focus. I thought I had some real good dives. I was also more focused to help my team as we needed all the points we could get.”
Sophomore Katie Minnich led the way for third-place Mercy as she repeated in the 100 backstroke in a time of 54.67.
“Winning it a second time is real special,” Minnich said. “I was confident that I could do it. There was pressure on me to win it again, but I like the pressure. There is always pressure and if there is not any pressure, it’s not worth doing.”
Minnich was also a member of Mercy’s 200 medley relay team that also won. She swam the first leg and was followed by junior Allison Lobbia, junior Alaina Skellett and freshman Annette Dombkowski as they turned in a winning time of 1:44.44.
Grand Blanc junior Emma Curtis was another repeat champion. Curtis repeated in the 50-yard freestyle in a time of 23.07, a new personal record.
“It was a lot more exciting this year,” Curtis said. “I wanted to go 22 (seconds) and I just missed it by a few hundredths of a second. I felt a lot better this year and felt a lot less stress. I want to come back next year and win it as a senior.”
After finishing second at Finals the past three years, Zeeland senior Morgan Bullock broke through to the top step of the victory stand. She won the 100-yard butterfly in 54.42 seconds in front of her hometown fans.
“I’ve been runner-up in everything at state since my freshman year,” said Bullock, who will swim at the University of West Virginia. “This is my senior year and I’ve worked real hard for this. I just wanted to go out and do the best I could. I liked that I had a chance to win it close to home. A lot more of my teammates and friends and family members were able to see me win it.”
Rockford, the fourth-place team, was paced by junior Sydney McDowell, who won the 100-yard breaststroke in a time of 1:03.84.
PHOTOS: (Top) Ann Arbor Skyline’s Emily Lock was among contributors to her team’s MHSAA championship. (Middle) Zeeland’s Morgan Bullock capped her high school career with her first title. (Click for 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.