By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
The MHSAA will say good-bye to an accomplished group of seniors at this weekend's Lower Peninsula Swimming & Diving Finals.
But not before giving that elite group a few more opportunities to add to their combined collection of 24 individual championships.
Waterford's Maddie Wright and Holland's Taylor Garcia, in particular, will race for their seventh and eighth individual titles. They're joined by Waterford senior Miranda Tucker, Ann Arbor Skyline junior Katie Portz and Bloomfield Hills Marian senior Mollie Pulte as current MHSAA Finals record-holders looking to go faster still.
See below for team contenders and individuals to watch at all three of this weekend's meets. Preliminaries are Friday with championship races and diving Saturday; click for a full schedule, qualifiers for each meet and a schedule with links for all prelims and final events to be broadcast live on MHSAA.tv.
LP DIVISION 1 at Eastern Michigan University
Team contenders: Top-ranked Farmington Hills Mercy is the reigning champion, finished second in 2012 and also won in 2011, while No. 2 Saline was the champion in 2009 and 2010 and runner-up in 2011 and 2013. All three of Mercy’s relays are seeded among the top two in those races, and the team also has 17 top-16 individual seeds (plus 10 more seeded outside of scoring range). Saline’s relays are all seeded among the top nine, respectively, with 10 more top-16 individual seeds and two divers competing. Rockford, Holland West Ottawa and Lake Orion as well could push for the top three.
Ellyse Conn, Farmington Hills Mercy junior – Finished 11th in the 200-yard individual medley and seventh in the butterfly in 2013 but enters this weekend seeded seventh in the IM (2:07.57) and first in the 500 freestyle (4:56.77) by six seconds. She’ll also swim on all three relays.
Roxanne Griffore, Farmington Hills Mercy senior – Last season’s 50 freestyle champion is seeded third in that race (23.87) and fourth in the 100 (52.40) and also will swim on all three relays.
Erin Hudson, Rockford senior – Enters with top seeds in both the 50 (23.45) and 100 (51.20) after finishing second and seventh, respectively, in those races last season. She also will swim on all three relays, all seeded among the top four.
Miranda Tucker, Waterford senior – Reigning champion in the IM and breaststroke and the top seed in both of those races again with a breaststroke time (1:00.78) that would break her all-division Finals record set last season and an IM time (1:59.70) that’s only three hundredths of a second off the LP Division 1 record.
Laura Westphal, Northville sophomore – Finished first in the 500 as a freshman last year and 10th in the IM, she’s seeded second to Conn in the 500 (5:02.93) and also will swim the 200 freestyle and on all three relays including two seeded among the top three.
Maddie Wright, Waterford senior – Seeking to finish her high school career with two more individual championships to go with six won over the last three seasons. She’s again seeded first in those races, the 200 freestyle (1:50.52) and butterfly (54.89) and set the all-division record in the latter in 2013.
Farmington Hills Mercy 200 medley relay – Finished second last season with Conn, Griffore and two seniors, and enters with a seed time (1:44.66) that is 2.54 seconds faster than that runner-up finish and 21 hundredths of a second off the LP Division 1 record set last season by winner Ann Arbor Skyline. Griffore is joined this time by sophomore Alaina Skellett, freshman Katie Minnich and senior Maddy Loniewski, the IM champion at the 2012 Final.
Amy Stevens, Saline sophomore – Won LP Division 1 diving last season as a freshman with a score of 462.70, ahead of Ann Arbor Pioneer’s Christina Lu and teammate Miranda Eberle. Stevens’ top competition this time again could be Lu and sophomore teammate Camryn McPherson, their Regional's champion by nearly 19 points.
LP DIVISION 2 at Holland Aquatics Center
Team contenders: Holland has won the last three LP Division 2 titles but is ranked No. 8 coming into this weekend. Ann Arbor Skyline finished third in LP Division 1 last season and enters this weekend top-ranked in Division 2. The Eagles have all three relays plus 10 individuals seeded to score, including six top-four seeds. No. 2-ranked Portage Central is in similar position with all three relays and 10 individuals seeded to score. Bloomfield Hills Marian, third last year and ranked No. 3, has three relays and 11 individuals seeded to score including six top seeds.
Emma Cleason, Ann Arbor Skyline sophomore – Finished third in a strong 200 freestyle field at last season’s LP Division 1 Final and ninth in the butterfly. She has the top IM seed time (2:06.12) and second-fastest in the butterfly (57.29) and will swim on three top-five relays.
Taylor Garcia, Holland senior – Garcia too will attempt to add two more individual titles to her six over the last three seasons. She’s also been on six relay winners and owns the three fastest butterfly times in LP Division 2 Finals history and three of the top five in the backstroke; she’s again seeded first in backstroke (54.80) and butterfly (55.13).
Krissy Harmon, Bay City Western senior – Last season’s 500 freestyle champion and third-place finisher in the 200 is seeded first in the 500 (4:58.43) and third in the 200 (1:53.20).
Katie Portz, Ann Arbor Skyline junior – Won the 100 freestyle and finished second in the 200 freestyle, and swam on three winning relays at last season’s LP Division 1 Final. She’s seeded second in the 200 (1:49.17) and 100 (51.12), and her two relays are seeded among the top three in their races.
Mollie Pulte, Bloomfield Hills Marian senior – Set records in the 200 and 100 freestyles as a junior and owns three individual and one relay championship overall. She’s seeded ahead of Portz in the 200 (1:48.34) and 100 (50.49) and swims on all three top-seeded Marian relays.
Madison Umberger, Portage Central senior – Won the IM in 2013 and is seeded third in that race (2:07.51) and the 100 backstroke (57.20) after finishing second in the latter to Garcia last season.
Bloomfield Hills Marian 200 freestyle relay – The Mustangs set the meet record at 1:35.24 last season and three of those swimmers return – Pulte, senior Hannah Richard and sophomore Sophia Schott. Their top-seed time this fall is 1:34.41.
Erin Neely, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central sophomore – Finished third in diving last season behind two seniors and posted the top Regional score in LP Division 2 last week by 36.5 points at 486.20.
LP DIVISION 3 at Oakland University
Team contenders: Reigning champion East Grand Rapids has won three of the last five seasons, with Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood winning the other two years and finishing runner-up when the Pioneers won all three titles. East Grand Rapids is ranked No. 1 and has numbers on its side with all three relays and 18 individual seeds among the top 16, plus another 17 individual swim qualifications and four divers. Grand Rapids Catholic Central, sixth last season and ranked No. 2, has three relays and 10 individuals seeded to score including five top seeds. Cranbrook enters ranked No. 3 and with three relays and eight individuals seeded to score.
Sydney Asselin, Holland Christian senior – Finished eighth in the 500 freestyle last season but also swam on three top-nine relays including two that finished among the top three (and she was part of a relay champion as a freshman). She’s seeded second in both the 200 (1:55.45) and 500 (5:12.47) freestyles, and all three relays are seeded among the top 14 in their events.
Emily Converse, East Grand Rapids junior – Owns top seeds in both distance races ahead of Asselin with a 1:55.20 in the 200 and 5:10.37 in the 500 and will swim on two second-seeded relay. She won the 500, was second in the 200 and swam on two winning relays last season.
Rileigh Eding, Hamilton junior – Expected to move up one spot to first in the 100 backstroke (58.53) after finishing second last year and is seeded fifth in the 200 freestyle (1:57.02) after placing ninth in that race. Her 200 free relay is top-seeded, and her other two relays are seeded among the top 16.
Gabby Higgins, East Grand Rapids sophomore – Placed second in both sprints and swam on two championship relays last season. She enters with the top seed in the 50 (23.87) and 100 (52.53) freestyles and as part of three top-five relays.
Stephanie Johnston, Hamilton senior – Finished just ahead of Higgins to win both sprints last season and is seeded second in the 50 (24.17) and third in the 100 (52.71) while swimming on the same relays at teammate Eding.
Riley Kishman, Grand Rapids Catholic Central sophomore – Debuted last season with a championship in the IM, runner-up finish in the breaststroke and two top-six relay places. She returns as the top seed in the IM (2:09.25) and breaststroke (1:06.30), and her medley and 400 free relays also are top-seeded.
Lara Kokubo, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood senior – Earned an individual championship and swam on three winning relays during her first two seasons and added two seventh-place individual finishes and two fourth-place relay finishes in 2013. She’s the fifth seed in both the 50 (24.86) and 100 (53.86) freestyles and will swim on two top-nine relays.
Susan LaGrand, Grand Rapids Catholic Central freshman – Kicks off her MHSAA Finals career as the top seed in the butterfly (58.75) and second seed in the backstroke (58.56) while competing on two top-seeded relays.
Taylor Hosein, Milan junior – Won last season’s diving championship by 35.15 points with a score of 425.60 and won her Regional with the second-highest score in Division 3 on Thursday (457.15). Only Allegan junior Erin Isola, sixth last season, scored higher at an LPD3 Regional (462.90).
PHOTO: Zeeland’s Morgan Bullock works to pull ahead of Ann Arbor Skyline’s Katie Portz (blue cap) during last season’s Lower Peninsula Division 1 Final in the 100-yard freestyle. Portz won the race by 57 hundredths of a second and will swim in Division 2 this weekend, while Bullock remains a contender in Division 1. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com)