Marlins win 11th Oakland County Swim Title in a Row

Author: 
Dan O'Meara

Coach Shannon Dunworth and the Farmington Hills Mercy faithful learned a great deal more about the their girls swimming and diving team Saturday.

The Marlins confirmed what many thought to be the case in winning their 11th consecutive year Oakland County championship.

They’re still a formidable program and a perennial power in the sport.

Mercy won by more than a hundred points over Catholic League rival Birmingham Marian at Lake Orion High School, 392-258.

“I think swimming is evolving, and we’re trying to stay up with the curve,” Dunworth said. “It’s important that kids swim fast a little more frequently.

“This was a good opportunity to see where we’re at. Come the end of the year, we’ll have a lot of decisions to make as far as who does what and really helps us.

“We take great pride in performing well at this meet, because there’s great competition at it.”

A team leader

Mercy senior Ellyse Conn was a double individual winner with first-place swims in the 200-yard IM (2:05.91) and the 500 freestyle (4:57.22).

She finished fifth and third in the Division 1 state meet in those events last year, respectively. She swam faster in both events Saturday than she did at the end of last season.

“Ellyse is a great leader; she’s a terrific swimmer,” Dunworth said. “She’s the most valuable everywhere at practice, because she really takes the ball and runs with it.

“The fact she won those races is exciting; however, it’s certainly not surprising. She has grand goals, and she has the ability and work ethic to achieve them.”

Two other winners

Mercy junior Alaina Skellett won the 100 butterfly (55.86), and sophomore Katie Minnich set a meet record in winning the 100 backstroke (55.60).

Minnich is the defending state champion in the backstroke. Skellett was the runner-up in that event at the county (56.13) and last year’s state meet. Minnich also was third in the IM with a time of 2:09.84.

“I call them the dynamic duo,” Dunworth said. “They train together; they’re great friends. They’re the type of teammates who would hold hands as they cross the finish line in cross country.

“If they could do that in swimming, they would; they’re that close. They push each other that hard. It’s unique to have two kids of that ability and that character on the team. It’s just a real luxury for me.”

Relay teams excel

Minnich and Skellett also helped the Marlins win the medley and 400 freestyle relays with record-setting times.

Kendall Goit was on both relay teams, too. The trio teamed up with Allison Lobbia in the medley (1:46.63) and Conn in the freestyle (3:31.99).

Freshman Annette Dombkowski, Conn, senior Erin Judd and junior Emma Noonan tied with Lake Orion for second place in the 200 freestyle relay (1:40.17). Marian won the event.

“We’re a very different team this year,” Dunworth said. “We saw some kids step up who a year ago you wouldn’t even think of them being on a relay.

“Metaphorically speaking, the goggles have been passed from the people who’ve moved on. That’s what made the meet so great.

“We’re trying to get a depth chart in mind. We realize we have three solid relays. That really plays big come the end of the year.”

Other girls step up

Former standouts Kathleen McGee, Maddy Loniewski and Roxanne Griffore dominated the relays last year. Minnich, Skellett, Conn and Goit also swam in the state meet.

“There are kids who are waiting for their opportunity,” Dunworth said. “To make a Mercy relay is huge. They probably have more pride in that than anything they do.

“We have plenty of kids who see those vacancies. That gets them to the pool all winter and summer, so come fall they have their chance.”

Goit also was second in the 200 freestyle and third in the 100. Other girls who scored in individual events were Morgan Jones, Mya Loniewski, Annette Dombkowski, Alexa Rybicki, Katy Kouvaris, Caroline Reamer, Jackie Baldus, Megan Hutter, Judd, Noonan and Lobbia.

Regarding the evolution of the sport, Dunworth said swimmers only swam fast twice a season in past decades, but training methods have changed greatly.

“Swimmers can be like most athletes and perform much better than just a few times a year,” he said.

“I look at swimmers as being the best conditioned athletes of any sport. To do all that work and only swim fast three or four times a year seems a big waste to me.

“At the college and international levels, these kids are called upon multiple times a year to have peak performances, and that’s what we’re trying to do with this team.”