By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
The Rochester Adams girls swimming & diving program had known plenty of success before this season.
The Highlanders entered the fall with seven straight top-10 MHSAA Finals finishes and having celebrated 12 individual event champions over their impressive history. Adams was coming off a third place in Lower Peninsula Division 2 in 2017 – its best showing during that recent run – and with one of those individual champs in senior Lisa Lohner back to lead another title chase.
On Nov. 17 at nearby Oakland University, Adams finished the climb by earning the first MHSAA Finals championship in the school’s swimming & diving history.
The Highlanders – the MHSAA/Applebee’s “Team of the Month” for November – scored 250 points, 30 more than runner-up Birmingham Seaholm. And the title actually was the first for either of the school’s pool programs, girls or the similarly prolific boys, who tied their highest finish by coming in runner-up in Division 2 last winter.
“It is just kind of that elation of always having strong kids in our program,” Adams coach Tim Hickey said in describing the lasting feeling from finishing the title run. “Swimming is pretty big in our area, so we’ve always had some great athletes come through the program, (and we’re) pretty consistently top 10 in the state. I guess to make that final hurdle to put it all together and win that first title is just an incredible feeling. It’s so nice to see all that hard work the athletes put in really paid off for them.”
Of course, Lohner was a big part of the effort, helping push that individual event championship total to 15. She finished first in the 500 (4:58.17) and 200-yard (1:51.49) freestyles and anchored the winning 200 freestyle relay (1:36.76) and seventh-place finisher in the 400 free (3:36.13).
But her teammates picked up a sizable scoring load. In fact, the Highlanders scored in every swimming race – including the 50 freestyle, where they took eighth and a tie for 12th despite entering the meet without an athlete seeded to score among the top 16.
Adams took 15 athletes to the meet, and 11 scored points – with that scoring spread across three freshmen, three sophomores, one junior and four seniors. Joining Lohner in scoring in one or more events or relays were seniors Maddy Fleury, Alex Waack, Valentina Rengifo, junior Fernanda Camacho-Castro, sophomores Claire Sweetwood, Meghan Fleury and Allison Danko and freshmen Lauren Woodman, Yitian Zhang and Olivia Goodman.
“A lot of things just came together this year,” said Hickey, who completed his 24th season leading the program. “We had several athletes back from injuries who either missed last year completely or we didn’t even know at the beginning of the year if they’d be able to compete. We had just a very strong senior class which has obviously been at that level for many years, three freshmen coming in … again, a lot of pieces of the puzzle all coming together this year.
“What makes it really great is that it was a total and complete team effort. We needed everyone there and everyone to perform well, and it really happened.”
Adams also won the Oakland Activities Association Red championship for the fifth straight season, ahead of Seaholm and also Division 1 Finals third-place finisher Harrison/Farmington.
Lohner will continue her career at University of Toledo.
Past Teams of the Month, 2018-19
PHOTOS: (Top) Rochester Adams’ Lisa Lohner swims to the championship in the 500 freestyle at last month’s LPD2 Finals. (Middle) Fernanda Camacho-Castro readies for her leg of the 400 relay while Alex Waack cheers on Valentina Rengifo. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
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.)