When Farmington Hills Mercy coach Mike Venos says, “We’re fortunate to have some people who can swim well upside down,” one might wonder, is that an up-and-coming training method?
No, that’s simply how he refers to the backstroke — the Marlins’ money event at the Division 1 state championship meet. Heading into today’s final heats at Oakland University, Mercy’s Katie Minnich and Alaina Skellett have the top two seeds in the race, with Minnich setting a new record of 53.99 seconds in Friday’s preliminary heats. In addition, Mya Loniewski and Julia Coffman also qualified for Saturday’s consolation heat, so if top-ranked Mercy wins its sixth state championship in 10 seasons, that race is going to have a huge effect.
“We saw that we had so many girls swimming that event in the prelims,” Minnich said. “During practice we get to train against together and really push one another hard, so it’s good to see not only myself swim well, but all my other teammates.”
“I really love the 100 backstroke, especially swimming against Katie,” Skellett said. “We push each other in practice every day, and it’s great to have someone like her to train against and push myself and elevate our team and get us excited for those swims. Especially so late in the meet — it helps us push that energy up.”
Venos said the scenario couldn’t be playing out any better.
“Katie is the two-time defending champion and Alaina has been all-state in that event for two or three years,” he said. “As our two leaders there, they basically run practice. They are competitive; they bring everybody else with them. When you’ve got a whole bunch of girls competing in practice, it’s going to pay off sometime, and it happened to pay off for us today.”
Otherwise, this is going to be a balanced meet. The Marlins will get pushed by Rockford, Ann Arbor Skyline, Saline and Brighton.
Rockford, who matches Mercy with 11 championship-heat qualifiers, is paced by Sydney McDowell, who has the top qualifying time in the breaststroke (1:02.71). The Rams, who have finished in the top four in each of the past three seasons, are seeking their first state title in girls’ swimming.
Skyline — last year’s champ — has top seeds in three events. Emma Cleason leads the individual medley (2:01.91) and the butterfly (54.33), and swims on the Eagles’ medley relay squad (1:44.46).
Saline, with three championships since 2009, had the top 400 free relay team (3:27.54) while Maddie Luther leads the 20 freestyle (1:49.21).
Brighton set a Division 1 record in the 200 free relay (1:35.09) while Taylor Seaman leads the sprint events (22.97/50 free, 49.91/100 free).
Where: Division 1: Oakland U., Division 2: Eastern Michigan, Division 3: Holland Aquatics Center.