Chips eye season-best swims at state finals

Manistee’s state finals qualifiers, pictured from left to right: Jaelyn Thomas (200-yard freestyle relay, 400-yard freestyle relay) Maddy Fox (alternate), Lauren Mendians (50-yard free style, 100-yard backstroke, 200-yard freestyle relay, 400-yard freestyle relay), Anna Lee (200-yard freestyle relay, 400-yard freestyle relay), Megan Huber (alternate) and Ginger Hiipakka (200-yard freestyle relay, 400-yard freestyle relay). (Dylan Savela/News Advocate)

Manistee’s state finals qualifiers, pictured from left to right: Jaelyn Thomas (200-yard freestyle relay, 400-yard freestyle relay) Maddy Fox (alternate), Lauren Mendians (50-yard free style, 100-yard backstroke, 200-yard freestyle relay, 400-yard freestyle relay), Anna Lee (200-yard freestyle relay, 400-yard freestyle relay), Megan Huber (alternate) and Ginger Hiipakka (200-yard freestyle relay, 400-yard freestyle relay). (Dylan Savela/News Advocate)

The success of a season can be measured in many ways.

For the Manistee girls swimming team, the gauge this year was improvement. And according to coach Corey Van Fleet, it was one of the most successful seasons to date in that department.

“We were pretty thin (in numbers),” he said, “but these girls have improved from the start of the season to now probably more than any team we’ve had in the program.

“The young kids went to work and we made swimmers out of them,” he added. “The whole team has done a great job.”

A handful of standout Chippewas have one more chance to chop times and showcase those strides this Friday and Saturday in the Division 3 state finals at the Holland Aquatic Center.

Leading the pack is Manistee’s Lauren Mendians, who will compete individually in the 50-yard free style and 100-yard backstroke, the latter an event in which she holds her school’s record.

“Lauren has a real shot to score some points in the backstroke,” Van Fleet said, “And we’ll see if she can’t break a minute in it.”

Mendians, who is making a return trip the the state finals, will also lead off a pair of state-qualifying relay teams for the Chippewas. She’ll join teammates Jaelyn Thomas, Anna Lee and Ginger Hiipakka in the 200- and 400-yard relays. The group qualified for both events during the final regular season meet on Nov. 6.

“The two relays made the cut by tenths of a second each, which is pretty unusual,” Van Fleet said, citing that Manistee’s Maddy Fox and Megan Huber will also make the trip to Holland as relay alternates.

The two-day state finals will start with prelims on Friday, beginning at noon. If the Chippewas qualify, they’ll swim again for points and placements in the finals beginning at noon on Saturday.

“It’s a reward for doing good work throughout the year,” Van Fleet said of the opportunity to swim at the highest stage. “Some years, when we have three or four girls who are in the top 10 or so, then it’s a little different because you’re trying to score some points. But for the most part, this year we’re trying to better our times.”

And if recent history is any indicator, the Chippewas have a good chance at doing so.

“Every girl on the team had a career best swim almost every time they went into the water (at the Coastal Swim Conference championships earlier this mont),” Van Fleet said. “We had one of those magic weekends where everything works the way you put it down on paper.”

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Posted by Dylan Savela

Dylan is the county reporter for the News Advocate, he also is in charge of the Small Town Life, religion and senior pages. He can be reached at (231) 398-3111 or dsavela@pioneergroup.com.

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