Last year’s Division 2 girls swimming state final meet was one of the most exciting on record. A half-dozen teams had a chance to win entering the final relay, and when it was over, fewer than 30 points separated the top contenders.
Based on Friday’s preliminary results, this year’s meet at Oakland University seems to be primed for another fantastic finish — especially since reigning Division 3 champ East Grand Rapids has joined the field.
“It’s really, really close, and we came in figuring there’s four or five teams that can win this thing,” said Bill Thompson, coach of defending champion Birmingham Marian. “There’s a lot of good teams out there and they’re evenly matched, so they’re just smacking each other in one place and getting smacked in another place.”
While the matchup of two returning team champs is intriguing, Dexter, Birmingham Seaholm, Rochester Adams, Grosse Pointe South and Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central also could shake things up.
Dexter had an outstanding day Friday. The third-ranked Dreadnaughts hold top seeds in four events, and return 17 swimmers today — 11 in championship heats.
“We came in prepared to swim fast last year, moved up and had a great finish, and we’re prepared to do the same thing this year,” coach Cory Bergen said. “Our program’s been successful for a long time, and we’ve got a special group of girls with great seniors, and we’ve just been pointing to the state meet all year.”
Dexter’s 200-medley relay team of Annette Schultz, Lizzy Merriman, Kate Mesaros and Gretchen Schultz had Friday’s top time of 1:44.25. Merriman leads the field in the breaststroke (1:03.76), while Annette Schultz is the only competitor with the fastest time in two events — the 200 free (1:48.73) and 100 free (50.48).
“At last year’s state finals, I had two very fast girls swimming with me, and it really helped me prepare because I realized I have to be up there with them,” Schultz said. “This year I really wanted to drop time, so I was putting in the work at every practice, listening to my coach, and I was expecting to come out this way — I was really training for it.”
Other event leaders from Friday included Rochester Adams’ Nicole Pope (2:05.01 in the individual medley), Marian’s Sophia Schott (23.02 in the 50), Forest Hills Central’s Felicity Buchmaier (55.74 in the butterfly), Adams’ Claire McGinnis in the 500 (4:57.13) and Grosse Pointe South’s Claire Young (55.26 in the backstroke).
East Grand Rapids doesn’t have any individual event leaders, but the Pioneers are fully capable of claiming another title, boosted by the top teams in the 200- (1:35.41) and 400-freestyle relays (3:30.69). They’ve also put the most swimmers (12) into today’s championship heats.
East coach Butch Briggs agrees the outcome is too close to call.
“It’s just fun to be at this meet, it really is,” he said. “The depth in this meet is just crazy, it’s good. We’ll just see how close we can get to winning it, and it’s going to take a great team to win it, for sure.”
Girls swimming state finals
Where: Div. 1 — Holland Aquatic Center, Div. 2 — Oakland University, Div. 3 — Eastern Michigan.