BLOOMFIELD HILLS – The Cranbrook Kingswood girls swim team has been the queen of the pool in Division 3 for almost half a decade.
After finishing runner-up at the state finals in 2009 and 2010, the Cranes claimed the state championship in both 2011 and 2012.
If Cranbrook is going to get the three-peat in 2013 in next week’s state finals at the Holland Aquatic Center, it will be doing so with a largely younger squad than it has previously had.
“We feel really good. We have 14 swimmers going to the finals and at least a few divers,” Cranbrook Kingswood coach Chris Bagley said. “We are really excited. Everyone is healthy and we’ve maintained good health throughout the season, which is a big part of having a successful taper. We’ve got a lot of swims where we have an opportunity to drop times and move up places. It will be interesting to see what the seeding will look like (come the finals), but I am really excited about it.”
In 2012, Cranbrook was led by a core of seniors to the title. Alexa Resetar, Kylie Powrie, Madeline Montgomery and Emme Reasoner were all-state in a combined 10 events.
This year’s team lacks as many seniors, but still has some all-state experience. The Cranes will have at least one swimmer that was all-state in nine different events to next week’s finals. That kind of talented youth has got Bagley excited about this program’s ability to stay in the title hunt for years to come.
“When you look at losing six state-qualifying seniors from last year and the team is only two simmers smaller this year, it is very exciting,” Bagley said. “We had a number of kids come very close to qualifying that will be back next year, so there is a lot of promise with this program going forward.”
The Cranes will be led by junior Lara Kokubo, who was a three-time state champion in 2012. Kokubo won the 100 freestyle and was part of the winning 400 and 200 freestyle relay teams. She also finished third in the 50 freestyle.
She was one of six Cranes to finish all-state in at least one event as a sophomore or freshman in 2010. Along with that group of six, the Cranes also have veteran leaders like seniors Julia Briggs, Juliet Wu and Brooke Boccia.
“Regardless of if we are young, old, fast or slow, we always want to be the most improved team in the state,” Cranbrook Kingswood coach Chris Bagley said. “I think we have put ourselves in a good position to be that at the end of this year. We have done a lot of good, solid training. We have added some new things and I think it will produce a great result at the end of the year.”
The Cranes are currently ranked second in Division 3 behind East Grand Rapids and ahead of Holland Christian and Birmingham Detroit Country Day. Cranbrook is right in the mix for the top times in many events, but East Grand Rapids finds itself looking like the favorite in Division 3 entering next weekend’s finals.
“There is not a lot of room for the girls to go, but we would like to see them improve on those places from last year,” Bagley said of the individuals. “If they can score where they were a year ago, or hopefully even better, we will be in a good spot as a team.”
Bagley isn’t too concerned with rankings right now. He feels his team has to just focus on improving their times and let the team outcome play itself out.
“When you have won two times in a row and were second even before that, you are going to be judged by winning championships,” Bagley said. “We’ve done a lot with managing expectations in terms of staying within our team and looking at how we performed against ourselves and not everyone else. I think we have done a pretty good job of making sure the focus is within and not everyone else around us.”
When asked about expectations for next weekend, Bagley wouldn’t commit to expecting a third title, just a season-best performance.
“I want these girls to leave with a smile on their faces,” Bagley said. “This is a hard sport. There are a lot of hours and a lot of early mornings, and I want them to walk away with a sense of accomplishment like they achieved something. Obviously, we would like to leave with a trophy, but that would just be an added bonus. If they are happy, then I think I did my job and they did theirs.”