Dow dominant: Chargers cruise to Tri-Cities title

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Dow High girls’ swimming and diving coach Chilly Smith had nothing but praise for his team following a dominant performance at Saturday’s Tri-Cities Championship — and the Chargers certainly earned that praise.

Dow steamrolled through the field of eight teams at Saginaw Valley State University, finishing first with 840 points, well ahead of second-place Bay City John Glenn’s 496.5 and Midland High’s third-place 244.5. Bay City Western took sixth with 175 points.

“This team is the most focused and dedicated girls’ team I’ve ever coached, and those things have helped them achieve all that they’ve achieved so far,” said Smith. “That started back in June when they began swimming in the summer time.”

The Chargers won seven of Saturday’s 12 event finals, and Dow’s Ella Roberson was named Swimmer of the Meet after winning the 200-yard freestyle in 1:53.11 and the 500 freestyle in 5:02.87 and also helping the Chargers’ 200 freestyle relay team (1:42.03) and 400 freestyle relay team (3:41.08) finish first.

Roberson’s time in the 500 free was a new meet and school record, breaking Krissy Harmon of Bay City Western’s previous meet record of 5:04.36 set in 2014 and Ellie Dean’s previous Dow school record of 5:03.84 set in 2012.

“Right now, Harmon holds the state record in that event, so that’s good company,” Smith noted, adding of Roberson’s performance, ” … She has improved by almost 10 seconds this year from where she was a couple of years ago. … It was just an awesome race. Her splits were just about even throughout the race, and that’s what got her those records.”

Also winning their events for Dow were Emmy Sower in the 100 butterfly with a 59.31; Emily Krzciok in 1-meter diving with 395.40 points; and the 200 medley relay team of Chloe Stafford, Lauren Burgard, Sower, and Eryn Murphy with a 1:51.47.

“I knew it would be a special day when the medley relay team dropped two and a half seconds (from its previous best) and won the race,” said Smith. ” … All three of our relays are becoming very competitive at the state level, so I’m really excited about that.”

Meya Luft, Emily Thackery, and Murphy joined Roberson on the winning 200 free relay team, while Thackery, Stafford, and Sower joined Roberson on the victorious 400 free relay team.

Meanwhile, Dow’s Katherine Gray qualified for the MISCA (Michigan Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association) meet in the 200 freestyle, Murphy qualified for the MISCA meet in both the 200 individual medley and the 100 breaststroke, Luft qualified for the MISCA meet in both the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle, and Stafford qualified for the state final in the 100 backstroke.

“In the prelims (on Thursday), we had 88 percent season-best times, and that is outstanding,” Smith noted. “And today, what was even more outstanding is that we had 67 percent season-best times in our individual races. That would probably be higher if we counted the relays.”

Dow will host Saginaw Heritage on Tuesday, Oct. 5. The MISCA meet will be held at Calvin University on Oct. 8-9.

Midland coach Buffy Hall admitted that she didn’t quite know what to expect, considering that the Chemics had competed in only two previous meets this season and that, for many of them, Saturday’s finals were uncharted territory.

“This championship meet was the first championship meet experience for all the freshmen, all the sophomores, and all three of the juniors that qualified. We did not have a Tri-Cities meet last year, and the 2020 Saginaw Valley League meet was far from normal,” Hall pointed out. “The girls came to race and did an incredible job, finishing in third place. They have a lot to smile about.

“As a team, the 50 freestyle event impressed me the most. Mya Hacker qualified in the top eight, and we had three swimmers qualify in the consolation heat,” she added. “Both of our 200 freestyle relays qualified in the top eight.”

Hall was particularly pleased with Alyssa Rentsch, who took third in the 200 free (2:05.53) and fifth in the 100 butterfly (1:05.76) and was part of the fifth-place 400 relay team (4:04.44); along with Madison Yockey, who finished third in diving (288.25); and Allie Miller.

“Allie Miller has been battling a shoulder injury for two years and has not been able to swim her favorite stroke and event. Since this is her senior year, she decided she wanted to swim the 100 back. To see the look on her face after her 1:07 prelim time — not knowing she was a top-eight qualifier until later that evening — is a memory I will not forget,” Hall said.

“Alyssa Rentsch had a goal of getting a MISCA cut in the 200 free, and so did her … friend Katherine Gray (of Dow). Those two girls pushed each other in the pool, swimming right next to each other, and each got their MISCA cut,” Hall added. “The friendship between the Midland High and Dow High girls is not like in any other sport in Midland. The girls and parents all cheer for each other and support each other.

“Madison Yockey splits her time between diving and swimming. She might be the only diver that competed in four events today,” Hall continued. “Madison attends swim practice and diving practice and spends more hours at the pool than any other Midland High swimmer.”

Following are the top-five finishers for Dow, Midland, and Western in Saturday’s finals:

200 MEDLEY RELAY — 1. Dow (Chloe Stafford, Lauren Burgard, Emmy Sower, Eryn Murphy) 1:51.47; 4. Dow (Morgan Retzloff, Ciara Brooks, Alea Casipit, Sophia Sower) 2:00.51

200 FREESTYLE — 1. Ella Roberson (D) 1:53.11; Emily Thackery (D) 2:01.98; 3. Alyssa Rentsch (M) 2:05.53; 4. Katherine Gray (D) 2:05.69

200 INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY — 3. Stafford (D) 2:17.13; 5. Eryn Murphy (D) 2:22.16

50 FREESTYLE — 2. Meya Luft (D) 26.04; 3. S. Sower (D) 26.71; 5. Mia Behm (D) 27.95

DIVING — 1. Emily Krzciok (D) 395.40; 2. Lauren Haines (D) 327.50; 3. Madison Yockey (M) 288.25

100 BUTTERFLY — 1. E. Sower (D) 59.31; 4. Casipit (D) 1:03.03; 5. Rentsch (M) 1:05.76

100 FREESTYLE — 2. Luft (D) 57.43; 3. S. Sower (D) 58.54; 4. Retzloff (D) 58.55; 5. Laken Clark (B) 59.98

500 FREESTYLE — 1. Roberson (D) 5:02.87; 3. Thackery (D) 5:37.75; 5. Gray (D) 5:47.56

200 FREE RELAY — 1. Dow (Luft, Thackery, Roberson, Murphy) 1:42.03; 3. Dow (S. Sower, Casipit, Ella McNames, Behm) 1:47.60

100 BACKSTROKE — 4. E. Sower (D) 1:00.94; 5. Stafford (D) 1:01.39

100 BREASTSTROKE — 2. Burgard (D) 1:11.67; 3. Murphy (D) 1:13.05

400 FREE RELAY — 1. Dow (Thackery, Roberson, Stafford, E. Sower) 3:41.08; 3. Dow (Retzloff, Luft, Claire Humburg, Gray) 3:55.09; 5. Midland (Autumn Brutyn, Myah Zalusky, Mya Hacker, Rentsch) 4:04.44