By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Michigan athletes enjoyed another banner showing at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro that wrapped up Sunday. We cheered for them all – but paid special attention to a handful who previously competed in MHSAA sports before achieving more at the international level.
Much of the following was taken from a recent series of MHSAA Instagram posts that highlighted our state’s Olympians with MHSAA ties. Athletes are listed with high school and graduation year.
Draymond Green, Saginaw, 2008 – Green got a taste for championships in leading Saginaw to back-to-back Class A titles in 2007 and 2008 before starring for Michigan State University and now for the Golden State Warriors. He averaged nearly 10 minutes per game off the bench for the U.S. team, playing in all eight games during the undefeated gold medal march.
Women’s Swimming & Diving
Allison Schmitt, Canton, 2008 – Schmitt won the 200 and 500-yard freestyle championships at the Lower Peninsula Division 1 Finals in both 2006 and 2007 and continues to hold the all-Finals records in both events; she then went on to shine at University of Georgia. She helped the U.S. 800-meter freestyle relay to gold and the 400 freestyle relay to silver, bringing her personal medal count to eight over the last three Olympics.
Grace Latz, Jackson Northwest, 2006 – Latz played volleyball during her high school career at Northwest. She took up rowing at University of Wisconsin and helped her quadruple sculls team to a fifth-place finish in Rio.
Grace Luczak, Ann Arbor Pioneer, 2007 – Luczak also was a high school volleyball player and rowed on Pioneer’s team (although crew is not an MHSAA-sponsored tournament sport, some schools have teams) before going on to University of Michigan and then Stanford University. She finished fourth in the pair at Rio.
Ellen Tomek, Flint Powers Catholic, 2002 – Tomek played basketball and softball for the Chargers and also made the Olympics in 2008 after taking up rowing at Michigan. She finished in sixth place this time in doubles sculls after finishing fifth in Beijing.
Men’s Track & Field - Discus
Andrew Evans, Portage Northern, 2009 – Evans played football, ice hockey and participated in track & field for the Huskies, winning discus at the Lower Peninsula Division 1 Finals in 2008 and 2009. He finished 16th in qualifying at Rio, just missing the top 12 who advanced to the final competition.
Alisha Glass, Leland, 2007 – Glass remains arguably the top player in MHSAA volleyball history with records still for career kills, single-season aces and career aces (accomplished during the rally scoring era beginning in 2004). She led Leland to the Class D title in 2006 and then played at Penn State University – and this month set the U.S. team to a bronze medal in Rio.
Lauren Paolini, Saline, 2005 – Paolini was both a volleyball and basketball standout for Saline before moving on to the University of Texas. She served as an alternate for this Olympic team.
Additional Olympians with MHSAA ties
Cindy Ofili, Ann Arbor Huron, 2012, Great Britain – Ofili won three LP Division 1 championships and was on a winning relay in 2012 before going on to run at Michigan. She took fourth in the 100 hurdles in Rio.
Tiffany (Ofili) Porter, Ypsilanti, 2005, Great Britain – Porter still owns MHSAA LP Division 2 Finals records in the 100 and 300 hurdles and shares the record in long jump after winning six individual Finals championships over her four-year varsity career. Porter finished seventh in the 100 hurdles in Rio and also ran in the 2012 Olympics. She also attended Michigan.
Alex Rose, Ogemaw Heights, 2009, Samoa – Rose was the 2009 LP Division 2 champion in shot put before also competing at Central Michigan University. Like Evans, he also threw discus in Rio but did not qualify for the final with his top throw coming in 29th.
PHOTOS: (Clockwise from left): Allison Schmitt waves to the crowd during her last MHSAA Finals; Draymond Green is introduced before a Class A Final at the Breslin Center; Alisha Glass confers with a teammate during a Class D Volleyball Final; Portage Northern grad Andrew Evans.
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.)