By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
This season’s Lower Peninsula Girls Swimming & Diving Finals all have fascinating storylines – and all three are vastly different entering the weekend.
In Division 1, in what might be a first, every individual champion is back from 2017 – and last season’s team champion is the top-ranked contender. In Division 2, only one 2017 individual champion is back – and the favored team is competing for its first MHSAA title in this sport.
In Division 3, we have some of both. A handful of reigning title winners return – plus powerful East Grand Rapids, back in Division 3 after winning Division 2 a year ago.
The Division 1 Finals will be competed at Eastern Michigan University, with Division 2 at Oakland University and Division 3 at the Holland Aquatic Center. Preliminaries are Friday and Finals are Saturday, with action beginning at noon for both. All three Finals will be streamed live and can be watched with subscription on MHSAA.TV. Click for lineups and seed times for all three meets.
LP Division 1 at Eastern Michigan University
Reigning champion: Farmington Hills Mercy
2017 runner-up: Saline
2018 top-ranked: 1. Farmington Hills Mercy, 2. Farmington/Harrison, 3. Brighton.
Mercy has won three Division 1 championships this decade and also finished runner-up three times. The Marlins don’t have highly-seeded individual favorites but will bring all three relays, six individual event top-16 seeds and a diver to EMU. Farmington/Harrison finished third a year ago and brings more star power with three top seeds among nine individuals and two relays seeded to score. Brighton is looking to move up from sixth last season with 14 individuals and two relays seeded to score.
Kathryn Ackerman, Grand Haven junior: Last season’s champion and meet record-setter (1:57.92) in the 200 individual medley enters with the top seed time in that race of 2:01.57. She’s also seeded fifth in the 100 butterfly (56.15) after finishing third in that race in 2017.
Casey Chung, Ann Arbor Skyline junior: After winning last season’s backstroke championship and coming in sixth in the 50 freestyle, Chung is seeded first in the backstroke (55.14) and just behind Ackerman in the IM (2:04.32).
Morgan Kraus, Rockford senior: She set a meet record of 53.73 in winning the butterfly last season and has the top seed this time at 54.33. She also finished fourth in the 50 a year ago and is expected to swim on the top-seeded 200 medley (1:45.90) and 200 freestyle relays (1:36.03) and third-seeded 400 (3:30.41).
Maddie Luther, Saline senior: Similar to her winning the 200 freestyle last season and finishing third in the 500, Luther is seeded first in the 200 (1:49.57) and third in the 500 (4:57.23) heading into this weekend.
Lola Mull, Grand Ledge junior: Mull is seeded first in the 500 (4:53.39) after winning and setting the meet record of 4:44.47 (in the prelim) last season, and she’s seeded seventh in the 200 free (1:53.02) after taking second to Luther in that race a year ago.
Ashley Turak, Farmington/Harrison senior: Turak won the 50 and 100 freestyles last season and was on the winning 200 and 400 free relays as well. She’s seeded first in both the 100 (49.81) and 50 (22.75) after setting the meet record of 22.38 in the latter last year.
Claire Tuttle, Hudsonville junior: The reigning 100 breaststroke champion is seeded first in that race (1:02.43) and fifth in the 100 freestyle (51.95) after coming in fourth in the latter in 2017.
Zain Smith, Ann Arbor Skyline senior: Last season’s Division 1 diving champ won her qualifying meet by 21.4 points with a score of 493.50.
Gracie Sleeman, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern/Eastern senior: Sleeman finished just 10.25 points behind Smith in taking second place a year ago, and she won her qualifying meet by nearly 32 points with an all-regions Division 1-best 494.45.
LP Division 2 at Oakland University
Reigning champion: East Grand Rapids
2017 runner-up: Dexter
2018 top-ranked: 1. Rochester Adams, 2. Birmingham Seaholm, 3. Dexter.
East Grand Rapids is back in Division 3, and Adams has moved in as the favorite to win its first Finals championship after taking third a year ago. The Highlanders have all three relays and 15 individual entries seeded to score, with a pair of top seeds. Seaholm was the 2016 champion and finished fourth a year ago. The Maples have all three relays and 13 individual entries seeded to score, plus a diver. Dexter has finished runner-up the last two seasons and hopes to take the next step after last winning this meet in 2015, but will need top swims to make a run with only three relays and five individuals seeded to score, plus a diver.
Michaela Briggs, Byron Center senior: Last season’s backstroke runner-up is seeded first this time (56.84) and also seventh in the IM (2:09.83) after finishing third in that race a year ago.
Clarice Fisher, Grosse Pointe South senior: She’s expected to move up after finishing third in the butterfly and sixth in the IM in 2017, entering this weekend the top seed in the butterfly (56.63) and third in the IM (2:08.65).
Lisa Lohner, Rochester Adams senior: The only returning champion at this meet won the 500 and finished second in the 200 freestyle in 2017, and is seeded first in both with times of 4:57.00 and 1:52.32, respectively.
Claire Newman, Midland Dow junior: Just missing her first two seasons, Newman will go for her first championships as the top seed in the 50 (23.31) and 100 (50.29) freestyles. She finished runner-up in both races as both a freshman and sophomore.
Gracie Olsen, Fenton freshman: The Tigers’ standout will enter her first Finals with the top seed in the IM (2:04.04) by more than four seconds and the third seed in the butterfly (57.70).
Jessica Schellenboom, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central senior: After finishing second in the breaststroke and fourth in the IM last year, Schellenboom will attempt to finish her career with a win entering as the top seed in the breaststroke (1:04.60) and 12th in the IM and as an option for all three relays.
Ellie Chalifoux, Birmingham Groves junior – After missing the semifinal cut a year ago, Chalifoux enters this weekend coming off a qualifying meet win where she posted the highest score in all of Division 2 at 418.60.
Lacey & Lexi Mirandette, Grand Rapids Northview seniors – Twins, the Mirandettes posted the second and third-highest qualifying scores in all of Division 2 (414.75 and 412.75, respectively) to take the top two spots at their qualifying meet. Lacey took fourth and Lexi fifth at the Finals a year ago.
Byron Center 200 freestyle relay: The group of senior Sydney Randall and juniors Maria Poll, Corrina Beecher and Emily Poll enter with a seed time of 1:32.30 – 1.1 seconds faster than the meet record swam by East Grand Rapids last season and 47 hundredths of a second faster than the all-Division Finals record by Ann Arbor Pioneer in 2002.
LP Division 3 at Holland Aquatic Center
Reigning champion: Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood
2017 runner-up: Bloomfield Hills Marian
2018 top-ranked: 1. East Grand Rapids, 2. Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, 3. Bloomfield Hills Marian.
The EGR/Cranbrook/Marian rivalry picks back up with the Pioneers back in Division 3 after winning the Division 2 title a year ago. East Grand Rapids won Division 3 in 2013, 2014 and 2016 and enters this weekend with all three relays and 11 individual entries seeded to score, plus three divers. Cranbrook Kingswood won last year’s title by 85 points ahead of runner-up Marian and has all three relays and 11 individual entries seeded to score, with one diver. That runner-up finish was Marian’s second straight, and the Mustangs and looking to add to the Division 2 title they won in 2014. Marian has contenders among the three relays and 10 individual entries seeded to score, and a diver competing as well.
Rhianna Hensler, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep junior: Hensler has won two butterfly championships plus the 50 freestyle title last season, and she’s seeded first in both races at 54.96 for the butterfly (which would break her meet record of 55.67 swam last season) and 23.74 in the sprint.
Sophie Housey, Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett junior: Seeded first in the 200 freestyle (1:48.60) and second in the 100 (53.06), Housey could claim her first high school titles after competing at the Winter Junior Nationals East a year ago.
Sydney Higgins, East Grand Rapids senior: Higgins helped the Pioneers to the Division 2 team title last year with a third in the backstroke and 12th in the IM. Back in Division 3 – where she won the backstroke in 2016 – she’s seeded sixth in that race (59.34) and 10th in the IM and expected to swim on two top-four relays.
Riley Nugent, Plainwell freshman: Another standout freshman, Nugent enters her first Finals seeded first in the 500 (5:09.16) and fourth in the 200 free (1:56.55).
Olivia Olk, Chelsea junior: She took 16th in the IM and just missed the final heats in the butterfly last season, but is seeded first in the IM (2:09.57) and fourth in the butterfly (58.32).
Lauren Sielicki, Bloomfield Hills Marian junior: She scored big with a third in the backstroke and fifth in the butterfly a year ago, and could lead Marian this time entering with the top seed in the backstroke (58.30), eighth seed in the butterfly (59.29) and as part of the top-seeded 200 medley relay (1:47.57).
Alysa Wager, Battle Creek Harper Creek junior: Wager took seventh in the butterfly and 15th in the IM last season, but in the breaststroke this weekend she’s seeded first (1:06.63) and also second in the butterfly (57.13).
Gwenyth Woodbury, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood: A two-time individual and multiple relay champion last season, Woodbury is looking to repeat in the 100 and 200 freestyles with the first seed in the 100 (52.06) and second in the 200 (1:52.74). Her 400 freestyle relay (3:33.08) also is top-seeded.
Mackenzie Crawford, Milan senior: The two-time reigning Division 3 diving champion scored 52 points more than anyone else in her division during the qualifying meets with a 465.45.
PHOTO: Cranbrook Kingswood's Gwenyth Woodbury powers to a victory in the 200-yard freestyle at last season's LP Division 3 Finals. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)