Finals time for swimmers

HOUGHTON – Houghton has brought a wide array of muscle to the pool and hopes to flex it this weekend at the U.P. Swimming and Diving Finals in Marquette.

Coach Roger Woods said one of the interesting things about his team’s 2013-14 season is how the swim program picked up athletes with a variety of different backgrounds, and not just freshmen.

“We ended up with a lot of new faces, and they’re going to get an opportunity to go to Finals, and that’s good for the future of the program,” he said.

The Houghton girls have a U.P. title to defend, which they earned by going into Marquette’s pool and defeating the Redettes 339-319.

The season hasn’t necessarily gone perfectly for the Houghton girls, but Woods thinks things are rounding into shape.

“There was some struggles to really get some good performances in the middle part of the season, but in the last meet we had the performances we needed to,” he said.

Those athletes Woods talked about come in handy during the Finals, which are scored to 12 places, emphasizing the importance of having a large group of swimmers who can score.

The Gremlins can get off to a good start Friday night in the diving competition, where Lauren Jackson is the top seed. Houghton has several contenders in the girls’ competition, but no heavy favorites.

Annika Wheeler (200 IM and 100 fly), Colleen Toorongian (100 free) and Sophie Witting (100 breast) are all seeded third in their respective races.

Witting (100 fly) and Hannah Gundlach (500 free) are defending U.P. titles won last year, though Witting is seeded fourth that event and Gundlach third.

Witting and Wheeler went 1-2 in the butterfly this year but face a formidable foe in Hancock-Jeffers’ Olivia Rouleau, who has changed her program after taking second in the 100 breaststroke last year.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the 200 IM where Rouleau will be going for a perfect 4-for-4 at Finals. She is a strong favorite to reach that impressive accomplishment, posting a seed time seven seconds ahead of No. 2 and 18 seconds ahead of anyone else.

On the boys’ side, Drew Meyer of Houghton is the best local bet to finish atop the podium. Meyer is the top seed in the 100 fly and could have a potential duel with Sam Williams of Marquette. Meyer’s also the second seed in the 500 free.

Sal Sharp is also second seeded in boys’ diving.

Hancock-Jeffers does not have any boys on its team this year.

Marquette is probably the favorite to win both boys’ and girls’ team competitions, though Woods said he’s hoping his girls can give the Redettes a run and get into the top-five mix in the boys. At the end of the day, he said if his swimmers establish personal bests, compete hard and leave Marquette’s natatorium happy with their performance, he’ll consider Saturday a success.

“If we can accomplish all those, or at least two out of three, I think we’re good,” he said.