Swimming: Eagles combined front-line talent, depth and perseverance to win state title

 
 

Skyline Coach Maureen Isaac slept very well on Friday night. And that was not good news for the rest of the Division 1 swimming and diving teams on Saturday. Instead of tossing and turning all night, Isaac was counting, not sheep, but points and it all added up to state champions.

“It was a beautiful day,” said Isaac referring to Saturday’s state championship.

The Skyline swimming and diving team finished first with 274 points at Saturday’s MHSAA Division 1 State Finals at Eastern Michigan University. Holland West Ottawa was second with 207 points followed by Brother Rice (154), Forest Hills Central (153), Northville (141), Pioneer (131), Catholic Central (127) and Saline (116).

Ben Keith with the trophy

Isaac was named Division 1 Coach of the Year, and, according to the MHSAA, is the first woman head coach of a Division 1 boys’ state championship team. She said the Eagles’ flight to a state title began on Friday which put them in position to cruise on Saturday.

“You don’t score any points on Friday but that’s where the meet is won and lost,” she said. “I knew where we had qualified people and where our opponents had not qualified people and it had us in really good shape. It would have been really difficult for us to lose that meet based on what we did on Friday.”

Going into the state finals Isaac felt Holland West Ottawa was a team that could knock them off if everything went their way. West Ottawa defeated Skyline early in the season in a meet proving just how good they are this season. But everything changed on Friday.

“On paper we were up by 90 points after day one,” Isaac said. “While I knew Holland West Ottawa was not going to struggle two days in a row, I also knew that they didn’t qualify enough people to really hurt us.”

Skyline was led by some key contributors up front. Senior David Cleason went 1:49.81 to win the IM and then turned around and won the 500 free in 4:30.55. He was seeded second in both events coming into Saturday. Cleason, who also swam on a winning relay, somehow didn’t win Swimmer of the Meet.

Michael MacGillivray finished first in the breaststroke in 55.01 and was second in the IM. Junior Henry Schirmer defended his state title by taking first place in diving with a final score of 503.85 points. Kyle Tschannen was third in both the 200 free and the butterfly. Samuel Jyawook was fourth in the 200 free and third in the 500 free.

The big guys came up big and the rest of the team exceeded expectations to pick up key points. And that’s how you win a state title.

“What we talked about all week and especially on Friday is that no one here can do this alone,” Isaac said. “And on Friday we told them that you are swimming for your team and while no one was going to earn a point the key was getting your hand on that wall. We talked about getting into the finals and what that would take.

“We talked about racing, competing and having a good plan. We talked about confidence. We already did all the work. I knew they had enough rest and I knew they were ready and they just had to go out and make it happen. And to their credit they made it happen.”

The turning point in the season for Isaac came only a few weeks ago.

“I thought the SEC championships were huge for us,” she said. “We figured out what it meant to be a team and we figured out how to support each other and that when we were swimming it was bigger than each individual person. We had been trying to get to that point all year and it wasn’t easy but that’s when I felt we became a team.”

Isaac has been coach of the Skyline girls’ team since the beginning, winning a state title in 2015. This is only her second year with the boys’ team, which touched second last year in the state finals.

It wasn’t the smoothest sailing ship. The Eagles had to overcome some choppy waters. They lost a few key people because of injuries and personal reasons during the season – something Isaac has never experienced before.

“We had a few people quit on us because in my opinion they didn’t think we were going to win a state championship and if we weren’t going to win it all, they didn’t see the point in putting in all the work,” she said. “When that happened I stood up in front of the team and told them that they would win a state championship. I pulled out the classic, those who stay will be champions.

“I really put myself out there because I told them that if they stuck with it and trusted me they would be rewarded at the end. I had confidence in them that they could do it and I started to see them start believing it too. And that’s not to say the season got easy at that point. It’s a long season and we had a lot of work ahead of us but I give them all the credit for buying into it.”

And they “bought” themselves a state title.

 

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