There were several inches of snow falling outside at Eastern Michigan University on Saturday, but Susan LaGrand had her mind on a different sort of Blizzard.
“We’re all going to Dairy Queen, because our taper’s over now. We’re all going to get our ice cream and enjoy it,” the Grand Rapids Catholic Central sophomore said after her team won its first state swimming title.
That was appropriate, since the Cougars creamed the Division 3 competition, winning six events and racking up 299 points — far ahead of St. Clair (199), Holland Christian (197), Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood (190) and Tecumseh (129).
LaGrand won the butterfly in a Div. 3-record time of 56.85 seconds, following up her first-place finish in the individual medley (2:09.30). Teammate Riley Kishman also was a double-winner, taking the 200 freestyle (1:51.64) and the breaststroke (1:03.20). The Cougars also won the 200 and 400 free relays (1:39.12 and 3:36.17), finished second in the medley relay and scored points in every race.
“Really, I think it’s our versatility,” LaGrand said. “We really had a lot of people in each event, and we were doing it for not only ourselves, but for our team. With every race we were swimming for each other, and just doing everything we could to get each other that title.”
Catholic Central had been top-ranked going into the meet and had 12 championship-heat entries Saturday, yet no one on the Cougars’ team felt the state title was a sure bet.
“Our coach told us if we came in thinking that we had it, then we won’t have it,” Kishman said. “We went in like we were in second place. We knew we had the targets on our back and we just needed to keep going. We just didn’t think that we were going to get it, so that would motivate us.”
“We knew (that winning) it was a really good possibility, but we didn’t want to get our hopes up too high,” LaGrand said. “It was our meet to lose, so we just had to give it our all, and as a team we pulled it together to come out with first place.”
Catholic Central doesn’t have its own pool; the team trains at the downtown Grand Rapids YMCA near campus. Its previous best finish came last year, as runner-up to East Grand Rapids (which moved up to Division 2 this fall).
“The Cougars had a swim team before, but last year we finally started looking like a swim team, and this year we really had a swim team,” coach Mio Vasic said. “We’ve got a strong foundation. Hopefully we can build on top of that.”
No other school had more than one individual event winner. Hamilton’s Rileigh Eding won the 50 free in 24.04, Allegan’s Erein Isola won diving with a score of 454.40, Tecumseh’s Karlee Marsh took the 100 free in 51.80, Alma’s Evelyn Vandermark won the 500 in 4:11.43, and St. Clair’s Grace Shinske won the backstroke in 56.27, pacing the Saints to a best-ever runner-up finish.
“We’ve been on a steady climb the last four years,” St. Clair coach Ben Herrmann said. “I’ve got a great group of girls, outstanding assistant coaches, and a lot of hard work, a lot of hours went into it.”
DIVISION 1: Ann Arbor Skyline won the team title at Holland Aquatics Center, scoring 290 points. Saline (238) was second, followed by Farmington Hills Mercy (217), Rockford (199.5) and Brighton (145.5). Skyline’s Katie Portz won the 100 freestyle (49.34, division record) and the 200 free (1:46.84), and teammates Emma Cleason won the 200 individual medley (2:01.51) and Georgia Mosher the 500 free (4:54.65). Skyline also won the 200 and 400 free relays and finished second to Mercy (division record 1:44.44) in the 200 medley relay.
DIVISION 2: Dexter won a tight contest at Oakland University, finishing third in the final event and scoring 256 points to East Grand Rapids’ 251 and Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central’s 247. Birmingham Marian (214.5) was fourth, followed by Birmingham Seaholm (193) and Rochester Adams (176). Dexter won the first two events, the 200 medley relay and the 200 freestyle (Annette Schultz, 1:47.89). Schultz also won the 100 free (50.34) and teammate Lizzy Merriman won the 100 breaststroke (1:03.68). East Grand Rapids set a division record in the 200 free relay (1:34.48) and won the 400 free relay. Forest Hills Central took the top four spots in diving and had a win in the 100 butterfly (Felicity Buchmaier, 55.60). Grosse Pointe South’s Claire Young won the 200 IM (2:04.78) and the 100 backstroke (55.20).