By Ryan Stieg
Special for Second Half
MARQUETTE – It’s not easy to repeat as Upper Peninsula champions, and that was proven again Saturday afternoon as the Marquette girls swimming & diving team navigated a tough battle with Sault Ste. Marie.
However, the Redettes prevailed, earning 377 points to the Blue Devils’ 300 to claim the U.P. Girls Finals title for the second-straight season.
Houghton was a distant third with 157 points, while Kingsford was fourth (141) and Ishpeming Westwood fifth (120). Either Marquette or the Sault won every event.
“It’s a treat,” Redettes head coach Nathan McFarren said about the win. “The Sault is so talented. It’s just that it comes down to how you win it as a team, and I think everybody knows that’s how it works. Everybody’s got to show up though. Everybody’s got to be there, where they’re supposed to be and when they’re supposed to be there.”
Marquette took first in five events, including the 400-yard freestyle relay for the second year in a row. Jayme Winn earned victories for the Redettes in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke and anchored the first-place relay, while Paige Whaley won the 200 free and Delaney Marchiol took first in the 500 free.
McFarren praised Winn, who definitely lived up both to her name and her reputation in the pool.
“She had a great day,” he said. “She’s probably one of the most intimidating and most able to self-motivate and be in the moment and just tear it up. She’s unlike so many competitors where you need that confidence, and she just shows up.”
Coming up just short of a U.P. title may be painful, but Blue Devils head coach Steve Habuska was happy with how his team performed.
“Today is probably one of the best days in Sault High swimming history,” he said. “When you look at our times and the way our kids performed, to take seven first places on the girls side is phenomenal, including two U.P records. Individuals two U.P. records, and two relays for four U.P. records. That’s a heck of a day across the board. From top to bottom, our lineup swam like crazy.”
The Sault won the other two relays, the 200 medley and 200 free, and five individual titles. Aliah Robertson took home two championships by winning the 200 individual medley for the second straight year and 100 breaststroke, while teammate Joanne Arbic repeated as champion in both the 50 free and 100 free. The other individual victory came Friday night when Brianna Jones took first in the 1-meter dive with 174.95 points.
Despite finishing a distant third, Houghton head coach Erik Johnson was feeling positive, especially with both of his teams bringing a small roster that afternoon.
“For how few kids we had here, they (boys and girls) swam out of their minds,” he said. “That’s the fastest they’ve swam all season in every single event. Everywhere you looked, best time, best time, best time. I’d say it went as well as it could’ve. They really raced their hearts out today, so I’m really proud of them.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Marquette's Jayme Winn swims to the championship in the 100 backstroke, one of her two individual titles Saturday. (Middle) Sault Ste. Marie's Aliah Robertson leads the 100 breaststroke on the way to one of her two meet championships. (Photos by Jarvinen Photos.)
MARQUETTE – Thanks to the informative meet announcer, the Upper Peninsula Swimming & Diving Finals crowd gets to learn a little bit about each participant – from basic facts like who their parents are to why they like the upcoming race.
In the sprints, that can generate some predictable answers, like the many athletes who pointed out they like that event because it’s one of the shorter races.
Before the grueling 500-yard freestyle event, Marquette senior Grace Sobczak and freshman Olive Krueger brought a little levity and originality, both saying it was because they get to beat the other one.
That, however, is easier said than done for anybody.
Sobczak finished her high school career Saturday a perfect 4-for-4 in the event, and she also repeated as the 200-yard individual medley champion and was part of winning 200 and 400 free relay teams at Marquette Senior High School.
Krueger had a great day as well, pushing Sobczak more than anyone else. She was runner-up in a close finish to Sobczak in the 500 while winning the 100 freestyle and helping the 400 free relay to a win.
“They trained right next to each other,” Marquette coach Nathan McFarren said, “and fed off each other. Just incredible to watch. They one-upped each other and pushed each other up until the race every day.”
They led Marquette to its third-straight U.P. championship as they and their teammates dominated the nine-team field with 386.5 points; runner-up Gladstone had 258. Ishpeming Westwood took third with Kingsford fourth, Houghton fifth, Sault Ste. Marie sixth, Ishpeming/Negaunee seventh, Rudyard eighth and Manistique ninth.
Sobczak said her dad wasn’t a big fan of the pre-race joke, but she said everyone laughed. And in the end, the duo put on a great 500 race with Krueger coming on strong late.
“I had to push myself in that race a lot,” Sobczak said.
That’s her favorite event; she’s a distance swimmer and that’s the only true distance event. Winning that one Saturday and making it a perfect 4-for-4 meant a lot to her.
“It’s amazing, crazy,” Sobczak said. “I got up there, and I started crying because it’s so surreal.”
She was even more reflective at the end of the day.
“I’ve been swimming since I was 6 years old. This was my last race at this pool,” Sobczak said. “We’re three in a row, it’s pretty crazy. Last year I got four (U.P. titles), this year I got four, it’s pretty cool.”
Her coach said she’s quiet but a great leader. She “stepped it up this year with taking charge as a senior,” McFarren said.
And she has a teammate she can pass the baton to in Krueger. While Krueger finished less than two seconds after Sobczak, the next swimmer was more than 30 seconds behind Krueger.
“I knew it’d be close because we always race together, but I’m glad she won,” Krueger said.
Freshman Kaytlin Roell finished first in the 50 free as Marquette won its 28th U.P. Finals team title and fifth over the last six years.
Gladstone senior Adrianna Getzloff had a big day, finishing first in the 200 free and the 100 backstroke. She also helped the Braves to a first-place finish in the 200 medley relay.
Two of her teammates also had first-place finishes – sophomore Irene Neumeier won the 100 butterfly and junior Mary Hook took the 100 breaststroke. They were also on the 200 relay team along with Ava Getzloff.
Westwood sophomore Maggie Harvala won the diving competition with a score of 214.90.
McFarren made it a combined 17 Finals championships as coach for boys and girls for Marquette, tying Marquette’s Matt Williams for the meet record.
PHOTOS (Top) Marquette's Grace Sobczak swims to a victory in the 500-yard freestyle Saturday. (Middle) Kaytlin Roell swims the 100 breaststroke for Marquette. (Below) Gladstone's Mary Hooks swims to the win in the breaststroke. (Click for more from Jarvinen Photos.)