By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
A total of 17 past MHSAA individual champions will lead the charge into this weekend's Lower Peninsula Girls Swimming & Diving Finals, which begin with preliminaries at noon today.
Among those reigning winners, 10 seniors are hoping to finish by climbing the awards podium one more time – and they and many more will attempt to do so with their teammates as well.
Below is a look at team contenders and top individuals to watch at all three Finals. All three will be broadcast live on MHSAA.tv and covered with stories posted to Second Half later Saturday evening. Click for full meet information including times and event orders.
LP DIVISION 1 at Oakland University
Farmington Hills Mercy finished first or second every season from 2011-14 before falling back to third place last fall, but could be the favorite as it seeks a ninth MHSAA Finals championship. The Marlins have 12 individual swim entries and two relays seeded in scoring range among the top 16 in their respective events, plus a diver competing. Reigning champion Ann Arbor Skyline has similar numbers going for it – 11 individuals and three relays in scoring position (including a top seed) and a diver. And Saline should also be in the mix again after finishing second last season, 2013 and 2011 and winning in 2009, 2010 and 2014. The Hornets have the reigning champion diver plus all three relays and seven individuals seeded among the top 16 – and four of those swim seeds are ranked first in their events.
Emma Cleason, Ann Arbor Skyline senior – Last season’s champion in the 200-yard individual medley (and fourth-place finisher in the 100 butterfly) enters this weekend seeded sixth in the IM (2:06.13) and fourth in the butterfly (56.13).
Emma Curtis, Grand Blanc senior – Curtis has won the 50 freestyle the last two seasons and also was fifth in the 100 last season; she’s seeded third in the 50 (23.33) this time and fifth in the 100 (51.28).
Morgan Kraus, Rockford sophomore – After finishing 10th in the butterfly and eighth in the backstroke in 2015, Kraus is expected to make a big jump seeded fourth in the backstroke (56.75) and first in the butterfly (54.40); she also swims on the top-seeded 200 medley relay (1:45.33).
Maddie Luther, Saline sophomore – She posted a strong freshman finish in the distance events placing sixth in the 200 and fourth in the 500 last fall, and enters this weekend seeded second in the 500 (4:52.6), first in the 200 (1:49.83) and swimming on the top-seeded 200 freestyle (1:36.19) and 400 freestyle (3:29.69) relays.
Katie Minnich, Farmington Hills Mercy junior – Minnich has won the backstroke the last two seasons and also was seventh in the IM last season. She’s seeded first in the backstroke (55.51) and fifth in the IM (2:05.70) this time.
Georgia Mosher, Ann Arbor Skyline junior – The reigning champion in the 500 also finished third in the breaststroke last fall; she’s seeded first in the 500 (4:51.2) and third in the breaststroke (1:04.17) this weekend.
Sydney McDowell, Rockford senior – The reigning breaststroke champion (and 12th-place finisher in the IM) will look for a strong finish seeded fifth in the breaststroke (1:04.43), eighth in the IM (2:07.36) and while competing as part of that top-ranked 200 medley relay with Kraus.
Nicole Pape, Rochester Adams senior – The Division 2 IM champion in 2014, she finished second in that race and the butterfly last season in Division 2 as well and is seeded third in the IM (2:04.98) and sixth in the breaststroke (1:05.15) this time in Division 1.
Taylor Seaman, Brighton senior – The 2014 champion in the 100 freestyle came in second in that race and fourth in the 200 last season, but is seeded this time second in the 100 (50.81) and first in the 50 (23.21).
Lizzy Spears, Saline junior – She’s another expected to make a big jump after finishing 10th in the breaststroke and fourth in the IM in 2015; she’s seeded first in the IM (2:02.58), fourth in the breaststroke (1:04.40) and will swim on the top-seeded 400 free relay with Luther.
Erin Szara, Northville senior – She finished 11th in the breaststroke last season, but is seeded first in that event (1:03.57) with a time three seconds faster than what she raced at the 2015 Final; she’ll also swim the IM.
Ashley Turak, Farmington Hills Harrison sophomore – She finished fourth in the 50 and sixth in the 100 freestyle in Division 2 last season, and with the jump to Division 1 also has jumped to the second seed in the 50 (23.32) and top seed in the 100 (50.62).
Laura Westphal, Northville senior – She finished second in the 500 last season to Mosher after winning that race at both the 2013 and 2014 Finals. Westphal also finished second in the 200 freestyle and enters this weekend seeded second in that race (1:50.86) and eighth in the 500 (5:01.82).
Camryn McPherson, Saline senior – McPherson moved up from runner-up in 2014 to diving champion in 2015 and will seek a repeat after posting the best Regional score in Division 1 by 28 points.
LP DIVISION 2 at Eastern Michigan University
Dexter emerged last season for its first team championship since 2002 and looks good to double the celebration. All three relays are seeded among the top seven, and nine individuals are seeded among the top 16 with two top seeds plus a diver competing. Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central is seeking its first MHSAA title since 1994 and first top-two finish since 2007. All three Rangers relays and 11 individuals are seeded to score, and divers took the top two spots and three of the top eight at their Regional. Forest Hills Central finished third last season and Birmingham Seaholm was fifth, but the Maples could make a move toward their first title since 1997. All three relays are seeded sixth or higher (including one seeded first), 16 individuals are seeded among the top 16 in their events (with two tops seeds) and two divers also will be in the mix.
Julia Boswell, Royal Oak junior – After finishing fifth in the 500 and 12th in the IM in 2015, Boswell enters this weekend seeded second in the IM (2:08.34) and first in the 500 (5:03.43) by nearly five seconds.
Felicity Buchmaier, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central junior – The reigning champion in the butterfly and runner-up in the backstroke is seeded second in the butterfly (56.46) and sixth in the backstroke (57.39).
Haley Dolan, Birmingham Seaholm junior – Dolan swam on two top-three relays last season but didn’t make the championship heats in her individual event, the 50 free. But she’s now the top seed in the 50 (24.25) with a time more than a half-second better than what she swam at the 2015 Final, and will also swim the 100 freestyle (54.62) and on all three relays including the top-seeded 200 freestyle (1:38.25).
Freyja Garbaccio, Okemos senior – She finished fourth in the butterfly and ninth in the backstroke last season, but this season is seeded first in the butterfly (56.29) and also will swim the IM (2:12.85).
Vicki Postmus, Byron Center senior – After finishing eighth in the IM and 11th in the butterfly in Division 1 last fall, Postmus moves to the Division 2 meet as the top seed in the IM (2:06.78) and fifth in the 100 breaststroke (1:06.87).
Gabby Rosely, Walled Lake Northern junior – Rosely finished fourth in both the backstroke and IM last season and is seeded to improve as third in the IM (2:09.46) and first in the backstroke (55.87).
Allie Russell, Birmingham Seaholm senior – Russell finished fifth in the IM and just missed winning the breaststroke, coming in 17 hundredths of a second out of first place to finish second last season. She’s seeded sixth in the IM (2:11.06) and first in the breaststroke (1:05) this time.
Annette Schultz, Dexter junior – Schultz was voted “swimmer of the meet” by coaches last season after winning both the 100 and 200 freestyles and swimming on the winning 200 medley relay; she’s seeded first in the 100 (52.33) and 200 (1:51.41) and will swim on two top-seven relays this weekend.
Anna Hansen, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central sophomore – Two-time reigning diving champion Erin Neely has had to miss her final high school season with an injury, but teammate Hansen could keep the championship with the Rangers after posting the highest Regional score in Division 2 (416.65).
LP DIVISION 3 at Holland Aquatics Center
Division 3 has a different look this fall with East Grand Rapids and Bloomfield Hills Marian back in the mix after finishing second and fourth, respectively, in Division 2 in 2015. The Pioneers won Division 3 in 2013 and 2014 and come in with all three relays and an incredible 26 individual seeds among the top 16 in their events – including two top seeds – plus five divers. Marian is right there too with two top-seeded relays and the third with a third seed, plus 19 individual top-16 seeds including four more tops in those events. Pushing for another strong finish is reigning champion Grand Rapids Catholic Central; all three relays are seeded to score, as are seven individual entries (one top seed).
Lauren Biglin, Bloomfield Hills Marian junior – Marian’s distance standout was third in the 500 and fifth in the 200 at last season’s Division 2 meet, and enters Division 3 as the top seed in both (5:03.23 and 1:53.35) plus a contributor on top-seeded 200 and 400 free relays.
Ileah Doctor, East Grand Rapids junior – Doctor finished second in the 50 and fourth in the 100 for Jenison in Division 2 last fall but enters third in the 50 (23.66) and first in the breaststroke (1:05.36) this time.
Gabby Higgins, East Grand Rapids senior – After winning both the 100 and 50 in Division 3 as a sophomore, Higgins finished third in both races in Division 2 last season while also helping winning 200 and 400 relays. Back in Division 3 again, she’s seeded fourth in the 50 (24.10), third in the 100 (52.82) and will swim on both relays, which are both seeded second.
Riley Kishman, Grand Rapids Catholic Central senior – Kishman owns two championships in the IM, two in the breaststroke and last season won the latter and the 200 freestyle plus swam on winning 200 and 400 free relays. She’s seeded second in the breaststroke (1:06.15) and 200 freestyle (1:55.82) this time and will swim on the 400 free and 200 medley relays.
Susan LaGrand, Grand Rapids Catholic Central junior – LaGrand won the butterfly as a freshman and then both the butterfly and IM and swam on the first-place 400 freestyle last season; she's seeded to repeat in the IM (2:09.81) and sixth in the butterfly (58.77).
Karlee Marsh, Tecumseh senior – After winning the 100 and finishing second in the 200 freestyle last season, Marsh is seeded fourth in both (53.59 and 1:57.63) and will swim on two top-seven relays.
Meghan Peel, Spring Lake senior – Peel finished fourth in both the 100 freestyle and backstroke last season but enters this weekend seeded first in the butterfly (57.84) as well as the backstroke (58.40).
Sophia Schott, Bloomfield Hills Marian senior – She won the 50 in Division 2 the last two seasons and was second in the 100 a year ago; now in Division 3, she’s seeded first in the 50 (23.46) and 100 (52.10) and will join Biglin on the two top-seeded relays.
Evelyn Vandemark, Alma senior – The reigning champion in the 500 also finished seventh in the butterfly last season; she’s seeded fifth in the 500 (5:21.48) this time and also will swim the 200 (2:00.81).
Mackenzie Crawford, Milan sophomore – Crawford posted the top Division 3 Regional diving score by 19 points and finished 29.45 ahead of the field at her event.
PHOTO: Grand Rapids Catholic Central's Riley Kishman pushes toward the finish in winning the 100 breaststroke at last season's Lower Peninsula Division 3 Final. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)