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GIRLS SWIMMING PREVIEW: The swimmers and teams to watch in 2013

Maddie Wright, Waterford Kettering

Sami Stelpflug, Clarkston

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Oakland County has never been short on talent in the swimming pool and 2013 will be no different.

The season is young, but Oakland County is already dominating the top 10 rankings. With one program defending a state title and another looking to return to the top after finishing second a year ago, it should be an exciting year in the pools around the county.

Teams to watch

Farmington Hills Mercy
– The 2011 Division 1 state champions fell shy of repeating last year, losing by just 21.5 points in the state finals. This year’s team is stacked with talent once again and currently holds the No. 1 ranking in Division 1. The Marlins have a pair of state champions back from 2012 in Maddy Loniewski and Elliot Schinella. Adding to that are a number of All-State honorees.

“The usual players are out there, Saline and West Ottawa, Rockford and many others,” Mercy coach Shannon Dunworth said. “It’s going to take a deep team to be successful. Our keys to success are to remain very consistent.”

Cranbrook-Kingswood – The Cranes are the two-time defending state champions in Division 3, winning both titles with a different coach. Chris Bagley is back for his second season with the Cranes and he has his team currently ranked second in the latest Division 3 polls. Cranbrook is stacked with talent, as it has six returning swimmers that earned All-State honors in individual events in 2012. Leading the way is Lara Kokubo, who won the state title in the 100 freestyle last season.

“Our expectations are always going to be high coming into a new season. Every year is going to present new challenges and I expect the girls to be prepared to face these new difficulties as we move through the season. We have to be prepared to be ready for anything,” Bagley said. “When practice began, it was very clear to see what athletes put in extra work in the offseason. It has shown in practice so far and we look forward to showing in November.”

Bloomfield Hills – The Black Hawks are coming together nicely in their first season together. The team has a number of capable swimmers, but taking a step up in competition to Division 1. Despite the transition, Bloomfield Hills finds itself ranked ninth in Division 1 right now and has a state champion from last season in Ines Charles.

“We have 60 athletes on our team, with 51 swimmers and nine divers. The larger team has allowed us to provide more opportunities and practices. We are currently running two practices a day to handle the team size,” Bloomfield Hills coach David Zulkiewski said. “We are going to use our depth and senior leadership to guide us this season and are looking for a strong finish at the OAA Red meet as well as the Division 1 state meet. We are using our strong traditions from Lahser and Andover to help form the new look of Black Hawk swimming and diving.”

Birmingham Marian – Though Marian didn’t place in the top 10 at the Division 2 meet a year ago, the Mustangs appear set to make a big push this season. Already ranked third in the current state rankings, the Mustangs have a strong core of talented All-State swimmers, many of whom are underclassmen. The team features junior Mollie Pulte, who won the 200 freestyle at the Division 2 state finals last season.

Birmingham Groves – Groves put up a solid effort in the 2012 season, finishing fifth at the Division 2 finals. The Falcons are currently ranked fifth in the state in Division 2 and could contend for a top-3 spot in the state this season if the pieces come together.

Birmingham Seaholm – The Maples placed eighth in the Division 2 finals last season, but are always in the mix when it comes to having the top swimmers in the state. Seaholm currently finds itself ranked sixth in Division 2.

South Lyon – South Lyon found itself in the mix in Division 1 in 2012, placing fifth at the team state finals, which was a three-spot improvement from 2011. South Lyon could build off of that this season, putting itself in the mix for a top-3 spot. It is currently ranked seventh in Division 1.

Clarkston – The Wolves have some strong swimmers that are capable of winning state championships, including senior Sami Stelpflug. She helped lead Clarkston to a ninth-place showing at the Division 1 finals last year. Clarkston is hoping for a better showing in 2013 and is currently ranked eighth in D1.

Waterford Kettering – Led by arguably the top swimmer in the county, Maddie Wright, Kettering could do more as a team this season if some other individuals are able to contend at the bigger meets. Wright is likely to score a pair of state titles again, which gives Kettering some solid scoring at the state meet. The team is currently ranked 10th in Division 1.

Rochester Adams – Adams already owns a win over Bloomfield Hills and is making its way up the Division 2 rankings. Currently eighth in the rankings, Adams is coming off a 2012 season that saw it finish sixth in the state. This season could feature a lot of Adams’ swimmers breaking out to earn All-State honors.

Birmingham Detroit Country Day – The Yellowjackets came in sixth at the Division 3 finals a year ago and find themselves ranked sixth in the latest D3 poll. Country Day has some strong top-end talent, including a pair of sophomores that earned All-State honors as freshmen.

Swimmers to Watch

Maddie Wright, Jr. Waterford Kettering
– The junior from Kettering is beyond one of the top swimmers in the county, she is one of the top young swimmers in the country. She comes into this season as a two-time state champion in both the 200 freestyle and 100 butterfly in Division 1.

Maddy Loniewski, Jr. Farmington Hills Mercy – One of many talented swimmers for Mercy this season, Loniewski won the 200 individual medley at the Division 1 finals last year and also placed sixth in the 100 breaststroke.

Ines Charles, Sr. Bloomfield Hills – Charles won a Division 3 title a year ago, claiming the title in the 100 backstroke. She also took second in the 100 butterfly, but makes the jump up to Division 1 this season as part of Bloomfield Hills High School.

Sami Stelpflug, Sr. Clarkston – Clarkston has been led by Stelpflugs for some time, now watching Sami enter her senior season. She is coming off a 2012 season that saw her finished second in the 200 individual medley and fifth in the 100 breaststroke in Division 1.

Kathleen McGee, Jr. Farmington Hills Mercy – McGee enters the 2013 season having placed third in the 200 freestyle and third in the 500 freestyle during the 2012 Division 1 state finals.

Hailey Sambor, Sr. Bloomfield Hills – Sambor had a nice showing at the Division 3 finals last year, placing third in the 100 breaststroke. She hopes to build on that in Division 1 as a member of the Black Hawks.

Elliott Schinella, Sr. Farmington Hills Mercy – Schinella will be a senior leader for Mercy this season. She was the 2012 Division 1 state champion in the 100 backstroke and also placed fifth in the 50 freestyle.

Roxanne Griffore, Jr. Farmington Hills Mercy – Another talent for the Marlins, Griffore was All-State in two events last year, placing fourth in the 100 freestyle and eighth in the 50 freestyle in Division 1.

Chanel Bonin, Sr. South Lyon – Bonin will hope to spark South Lyon to a big year as a senior. She was third in the 100 butterfly and seventh in the 100 backstroke at the Division 1 finals last year.

Kathryn Culver, Sr. Clarkston – Culver hopes to build on a good showing at the state finals in 2012, where she finished sixth in the D1 100 freestyle. The senior could contend for a title this year.

Ellyse Conn, So. Farmington Hills Mercy – Conn is one of Mercy’s younger talents. She earned All-State honors as a freshman by placing sixth in the 100 backstroke in the Division 1 finals.

Mollie Pulte, Jr. Birmingham Marian – Pulte is a big reason why Marian has some optimism for a big 2013. Pulte won the 200 freestyle at the Division 2 state finals and also placed third in the 100 freestyle as a sophomore.

Theresa Riviera, Jr. Rochester Adams – Riviera was fourth in the 200 freestyle at the Division 2 state finals a year ago. The junior has her sights set on a potential title this year.

Hanna Pfershy, Sr. Birmingham Groves – The Groves senior finished fourth in the 50 freestyle and fifth in the 100 freestyle at the Division 2 finals as a junior.

Haley Kornburger, Sr. Oxford – Kornburger will be a leader for Oxford this year. She is coming off a 2012 season that saw her finish sixth in the 50 freestyle at the Division 2 finals.

Maren Taylor, Soph. Birmingham Marian – Taylor had a strong showing as a freshman, placing seventh in the 50 freestyle at the Division 2 state finals.

Mykala Arnold, Jr. Birmingham Seaholm – Arnold was All-State in two events in 2012, as she came in third in the 100 butterfly and eighth in the 100 backstroke at the D2 finals a year ago.

Merrill Watzman, Sr. Birmingham Groves – Watzman, a senior, was the distance swimmer for Groves last year and she placed seventh in the 500 freestyle at the Division 2 finals.

Kelly McGowan, Jr. Birmingham Groves – McGowan came in seventh in the 100 backstroke a year ago at the Division 2 finals.

Celia Hoag, Jr. Birmingham Seaholm – Hoag, another strong junior for Groves, came in seventh in the 100 breaststroke at the 2012 Division 2 finals.

Charlotte Lee, Soph. Cranbrook-Kingswood – As a freshman, Lee made a big splash in 2012, finishing fifth in the 200 individual medley and fourth in the 100 breaststroke at the D3 finals for the Cranes.

Anuschka Sambel, Soph. Cranbrook-Kingswood – Sambel was another strong freshman for Cranbrook last year, as she came in sixth in the 200 IM and fifth in the 500 freestyle at the Division 3 state finals.

Maggie Pyett, Sr. Birmingham Detroit Country Day – Pyett will be a senior leader for Country Day this season. She finished second in the 50 freestyle and second in the 100 freestyle at the Division 3 finals a year ago. Multiple titles could be in her future.

Lara Kokubo, Jr. Cranbrook-Kingswood – The junior for Cranbrook is a defending state champion. Kokubo claimed the Division 3 title in the 100 freestyle and also placed third in the 50 freestyle last year.

Julia Briggs, Sr. Cranbrook-Kingswood – Briggs will be a team leader as a senior for the young Cranes. She finished third in the 100 butterfly at the Division 3 finals a year ago.

Varsha Yerasi, Soph. Birmingham Detroit Country Day – As a freshman, Yerasi finished fourth in the 100 butterfly at the Division 3 state finals.

Katie Kim, Soph. Birmingham Detroit Country Day – Like Yerasi, Kim was All-State as a freshman, placing fifth in the 100 butterfly at the Division 3 finals.

Juliet Wu, Sr. Cranbrook-Kingswood – Wu hopes to build off her junior year in which she placed eighth in the 100 freestyle at the Division 3 state finals.

Gabby Roehr, Soph. Cranbrook-Kingswood – Roehr made an impression on the Cranes as a freshman, placing eighth in the 500 freestyle at the D3 finals.

Divers to watch

Erica Allor, Sr. Farmington Hills Mercy
– Allor placed 12th at the Division 1 finals in diving a year ago despite placing just 14th at the Oakland County meet.

Olivia Wagner, Jr. Bloomfield Hills – Wagner came in 10th in the Oakland County meet last year and followed that up by placing 11th in Division 2.

Autumn Smith, Sr. South Lyon – Despite placing fifth in the Oakland County Championship last year, Smith ended up 16th at the Division 1 finals. She will look to build on that this season.

Valerie Shea, Jr. Birmingham Marian – Shea had a nice showing at the Division 2 finals, finishing 10th. She also came in 15th at the county championship meet.

Last Updated: 9/16/2013 2:28:16 PM EST

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