"The mindset for us is going in and swimming the way we are capable of swimming," second-year Mercy head coach Mike Venos said. "We want to treat it as if it were the state meet. It's as much a mindset as it is anything else.
"Our girls have to race in a championship setting against, let's face it, some of the best swimmers in the Midwest, if not the nation," he added. "This meet has always been, for the 20-some years I've been at Oakland County, a great gauge for how we're going to do at states."
A fast meet expected
Seaholm head coach Karl Hodgson agrees that the meet is one of the fastest outside of the state championship meet.
"We live in a fast county and I expect this meet to reflect that," Hodgson said. "Mercy should be the favorite this year.
"We should have a few competitive swims," he added. "Two swimmers to watch out for from Seaholm are seniors Haley Dolan and Linnea Anderson. Both should have a significant impact on our relays, as well as their individual events."
While Marian head coach Bill Thompson believes Mercy is the team to beat, he anticipates a colossal battle for the next few spots.
"I haven't seen all the teams yet, but my hunch is that Mercy has the talent and depth to take the team trophy," Thompson said. "But the next spots should be very competitive as there are several solid teams, all with some upper-level athletes, so that will make the team competition tight."
Marian's six athletes with 'A' cuts who are expected to make some noise include seniors Lauren Biglin, Emily Schlabach and Gabby Granata, juniors Jane Nodland and Anika Fassett and sophomore Lauren Sielicki. Biglin is the county's defending 500 free champion and was also a member of the Mustangs' foursome that won the 200 and 400 free relays last year.
Mercy is again loaded with top-end talent after having lost just one swimmer who scored at last year's Division 1 state meet.
The Marlins already have won the Fenton Relays and the Ann Arbor Skyline quad. They placed second of nine teams to the host and No. 1-ranked (Division 2) Pioneers at the East Grand Rapids Invitational. They've also registered dual-meet wins over Birmingham Seaholm and Grosse Pointe North.
"We really haven't had too many opportunities to step up and race so far this year, but when we have, we've taken advantage of it," Venos said. "But we're really starting to get into our competition phase of the season."
Marlins rich in talent
Mercy is led by eight-time all-state star and four-year varsity veteran Katie Minnich, who recently committed to swim at the University of Michigan.
Minnich returns as the Oakland County meet's defending champion in both the 200-yard IM (2:05.70) and 100-yard backstroke (55.51, a new county record). The senior captain also was a member of Mercy's winning 200-yard medley relay team at last year's county meet.
Mercy's other standout is fellow senior captain Kendall Goit, who garnered three all-state swims at last year's state meet. The four-year varsity veteran is also Oakland County's defending 200-yard freestyle relay champion (1:52.60).
"Kendall is very driven and probably the most competitive girl we have on the team," Venos said. "She is another one who leaves it in the pool every day."
Mercy's third senior captain is Mya Loniewski, who scored in both the IM and backstroke at the 2016 state meet. Loniewski has a rich pedigree as both of her older sisters, Mara and Maddy, were also Marlins swimmers.
"I think she understands what this team is about more than anybody, because she grew up on this pool deck," Venos said. "She had two sisters who graduated from here, so she grew up a Mercy girl."
Junior Annette Dombkowski, a distance swimmer whose mom Sue also swam at Mercy, junior Francesca Schena and sophomores Julia Coffman, Kylie Goit and Sarah Puscas are also returning state-meet scorers.
"These girls train as hard, if not harder, than any group of kids I've ever coached," Venos said. "And I've had the opportunity to coach some pretty good teams. These girls leave it in the pool every day."
WHAT: Oakland County Girls Swimming and Diving Championships
WHEN: Oct. 6-7
WHERE: Lake Orion High School natatorium
TIME: Diving finals 6 p.m. Oct. 6; Swim finals begin noon Oct. 7
ADMISSION: $5 ($3 for programs)
NOTABLE: Farmington Mercy is the 13-time defending meet champion; Birmingham Seaholm, Bloomfield Hills Marian, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, Northville, Lakeland, Farmington/Harrison United and Birmingham Groves are the area's other state-ranked teams slated to participate.