There’s no sugar coating it – there might not be a more dominant team in the area than St. Clair girls swimming.
Last season the Saints sent seven swimmers to the Division 3 state finals. That was also after a 5-0 season in the MAC White, a second place finish in the conference championships and a first-place finish in every swimming event in the ForSports Blue Water Classic.
Crazy enough, they only graduated three seniors from last year’s team, and they’re also welcoming in a quality class of freshman. There’s really no wondering why they started talking about lofty goals within minutes of their first practice on Wednesday.
“We came straight out talking about (goals),” senior Alexis “Red” Smith said. “We want to win MACs, we want to place in the top four of states as a team and we just want a great team atmosphere.”
Last year St. Clair racked up enough points to place sixth at the state meet. With state meet swimmers Smith, Grace Shinske, Heidi Likins, Molly Likins, Emilee Laenan and Jenna Meyers all returning for a big year, the offseason has been filled with thinking about what will happen this fall.
“The whole summer has just been in preparation for it,” Shinske said. “We also have some good freshman too, so they will be a big help.”
Those promising freshmen, Maddie Leaver and Elizabeth Laenan, will also be heading into their first season with plenty of experience behind them. Laenan is fresh off a 14-and-under USA Swimming Zone Meet, where she swam in the 100 breaststroke. Leaver also swam the 50 butterfly at the Zone Meet last summer.
For head coach Ken Sygit, the talent they have in the upperclassmen and the potential of the underclassmen just speaks to the legacy his team is trying to make this year.
“Four years ago we had eight girls come out for swimming, and last year we sent more than eight to states,” Sygit said. “‘What is the legacy you want to leave?’ We pose that to the incoming freshmen.”
The upperclassmen those freshman get to look up to almost couldn’t get any better. Shinske is coming off a summer that included a third place finish after being seeded No. 1 in the Long Course Meter State Meet in the 100 backstroke.
Now she’s looking to cap off her senior year with national dreams in front of her.
“I want to hit a Junior Nationals cut again and hit an All-American time in 100 back (at 55 seconds),” said Shinske, who placed second at last year’s state meet.
If St. Clair is as promising as it seems, how can they find an edge to give them motivation to be better? Well, last year’s second place finish at the MAC White Championships doesn’t seem too long ago for the team, and the taste it left in their mouths isn’t a pleasant one.
“It just lit a fire under us,” Smith said. “We have a rally cry this year, and it’s ‘second.’ We’ll shout that because we don’t want to come in second again.”
Contact Matt Sheehan at (810)-989-6267 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s on Twitter @Sheehan_Sports.