By Ryan Stieg
Special for Second Half
MARQUETTE – It’s not easy to repeat as Upper Peninsula champions, and that was proven again Saturday afternoon as the Marquette girls swimming & diving team navigated a tough battle with Sault Ste. Marie.
However, the Redettes prevailed, earning 377 points to the Blue Devils’ 300 to claim the U.P. Girls Finals title for the second-straight season.
Houghton was a distant third with 157 points, while Kingsford was fourth (141) and Ishpeming Westwood fifth (120). Either Marquette or the Sault won every event.
“It’s a treat,” Redettes head coach Nathan McFarren said about the win. “The Sault is so talented. It’s just that it comes down to how you win it as a team, and I think everybody knows that’s how it works. Everybody’s got to show up though. Everybody’s got to be there, where they’re supposed to be and when they’re supposed to be there.”
Marquette took first in five events, including the 400-yard freestyle relay for the second year in a row. Jayme Winn earned victories for the Redettes in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke and anchored the first-place relay, while Paige Whaley won the 200 free and Delaney Marchiol took first in the 500 free.
McFarren praised Winn, who definitely lived up both to her name and her reputation in the pool.
“She had a great day,” he said. “She’s probably one of the most intimidating and most able to self-motivate and be in the moment and just tear it up. She’s unlike so many competitors where you need that confidence, and she just shows up.”
Coming up just short of a U.P. title may be painful, but Blue Devils head coach Steve Habuska was happy with how his team performed.
“Today is probably one of the best days in Sault High swimming history,” he said. “When you look at our times and the way our kids performed, to take seven first places on the girls side is phenomenal, including two U.P records. Individuals two U.P. records, and two relays for four U.P. records. That’s a heck of a day across the board. From top to bottom, our lineup swam like crazy.”
The Sault won the other two relays, the 200 medley and 200 free, and five individual titles. Aliah Robertson took home two championships by winning the 200 individual medley for the second straight year and 100 breaststroke, while teammate Joanne Arbic repeated as champion in both the 50 free and 100 free. The other individual victory came Friday night when Brianna Jones took first in the 1-meter dive with 174.95 points.
Despite finishing a distant third, Houghton head coach Erik Johnson was feeling positive, especially with both of his teams bringing a small roster that afternoon.
“For how few kids we had here, they (boys and girls) swam out of their minds,” he said. “That’s the fastest they’ve swam all season in every single event. Everywhere you looked, best time, best time, best time. I’d say it went as well as it could’ve. They really raced their hearts out today, so I’m really proud of them.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Marquette's Jayme Winn swims to the championship in the 100 backstroke, one of her two individual titles Saturday. (Middle) Sault Ste. Marie's Aliah Robertson leads the 100 breaststroke on the way to one of her two meet championships. (Photos by Jarvinen Photos.)