BY DAN STICKRADT
WATERFORD TWP. — Shannon Dunworth might not have had the best memory in the world and his math skills were not on site Saturday at Waterford Kettering.
Please forgive the veteran Dunworth, as Saturday was his birthday. His Farmington Hills Mercy squad gave him another present following the Oakland County Girls Swimming and Diving Championships — a championship trophy.
“I am 56 and I don’t know how many titles in a row we’ve won,” beamed Dunworth, Mercy’s head coach. “I really don’t know.”
Mercy, the top-ranked school in Division 1, captured its unprecedented eighth straight county title. The Marlins were so dominant that their 426.5 points was more than 200 points ahead of the runner-up team.
Novi finished a distant second with 224 points, while Birmingham Marian (211), Clarkston (188), Lake Orion (171), Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood (159), South Lyon Unified (145), Bloomfield Hills Lahser (145), Birmingham Seaholm (104) and Rochester Adams (88) rounded out the top 10 in a field where 27 schools scored points.
“I thought before today that we were average,” admitted Dunworth, whose team boasts only three seniors. “The kids got excited to do well and really responded to the great competition here. This was our best performance of the year.”
Mercy won three relays and had one win in the open events. The Marlins scored in all 12 events to win going away.
“We had a lot of kids make their (state finals) cuts who we didn’t know if they would be there at the end of the year, so that was good,” added Dunworth. “For some of them, this was their first county win. I don’t know how many we’ve won, but every group is little different.”
Kathleen McGee won the 500 freestyle with a 5:06.22 clocking as Mercy’s sole individual win.
Elliott Schinella, Annie Valentine, Hannah Knoop and Maddy Loniewski set the tone with a victory in the 200 medley relay (1:50.24). Loniewski, McGee, Roxanne Griffore and Schinella joined forces for a win in the 200 free relay (1:38.44), while Ellyse Conn, Valentine, Griffore and McGee combined for a win in the 400 free relay (3:34.99) for Mercy to wrap up one of the most dominating team performances in county-meet history.
Novi coach Annette VanderMey was thrilled with the runner-up trophy, the Wildcats’ best ever finish since launching its swimming and diving program in the early 1990s.
“Nobody is beating Mercy, so we consider this a win,” offered VanderMey, whose injury-riddled team continues to impress. “We got a lot of state cuts out of this. We might have to look at it and set our sights higher. We were a top-10 team coming in but we might be harder now. You get a couple of west side teams that come to the state meets, but Oakland County is a good indication of what you’re going to see at the state meet.”
Novi won two events on the day, as sisters Maranda Buha and Mallory Buha both claimed titles with wins in the 50 free (24.11) and 100 backstroke (56.26) respectively.
Clarkston junior Sami Stelpflug and Waterford United sophomore Maddie Wright were both double winners and stars of the meet.
Stelpflug won the 200 IM (2:06.52) for the second straight season, while she also was victorious in the 100 breaststroke for the first time in 1:06.69. Wright swam to wins in the 200 free (1:50.66) and 100 butterfly (55.27).
“It was my goal to come out here and do my best and hopefully win. It’s really exciting because I won the 200 IM last year but this is my first time winning the breaststroke at the county,” smiled Stelpflug. “This really helps prepare for the league and state meet. It gives you a chance to race against great competition and see where you are at (amongst the state’s elite).”
Marian’s Mollile Pulte won the 100 free in 51.42, breaking the county mark that has stood for nearly two decades. Walled Lake Western’s Allie Murphy won the 1-meter diving event with 440.90 points, winning by nearly 50 points in the event, to round out the winners.
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