Girls swim team conquers official State Meet


Photo courtesy of Coach James Schuler

Left to right: Glaspie, Coesens, Kennedy, Malik, and Armstrong competed at the state competition in Grand Rapids on January 16th, 2021 after just weeks of time back in the pool.

Riley Coesens, Editor in Chief

On Saturday, Jan. 16th, the MHS Girls States swimmers ventured to Grand Rapids Northview High School to compete in the postponed meet originally scheduled for mid-November. After nearly two months of delays and confusion, the MHSAA allowed athletes to participate in the event after weeks of receiving rapid COVID tests (three times per week) and committing to safety precautions throughout the waiting period. With just a few weeks to prepare, the athletes and Head Coach James Schuler dialed in their energy to retrain for the competition; all hoped to achieve high levels of success, even under strained circumstances, as they had done for much of the previous season. 

The girls were up to the challenge and returned to Milford with top scores and times in the following events: Senior Ella Glaspie placed 8th in the 200 Freestyle (1:55.67); Senior Rylie Kennedy placed 2nd in the 50 Freestyle (24.21); Kennedy, Sophomore Mallory Armstrong, Senior Riley Coesens, and Glaspie placed 8th in the 200 Freestyle relay (1:40.53); and Glaspie, Armstrong, Junior Anna Malik, and Kennedy placed 16th in the 400 Freestyle relay (3:44.41). 

The team’s dedication throughout the months of practices, meets, and changing guidelines proved their passion toward the sport and improvement. Stepping back into an activity after taking time off is never easy, but doing so after previously accepting its conclusion demonstrated an entirely different set of challenges that the girls had to overcome. “Our team trained incredibly hard and we worked our sprinting to the max,” Glaspie shared. “With only a few weeks to train prior to a big meet, it can put a lot of mental strain on the athletes participating.” The training was grueling at times, but it also offered new bonding opportunities that they would not have otherwise had together. “Leading up to the State meet was both intense and fun,” explained Kennedy. “I’m so proud to have been given the chance to be a part of a team that was able to grow and overcome all these challenges while having fun and laughing along the way.”

One of the swimmers’ major concerns was the ability to reach a level of performance comparable to that of previous peak conditions–the girls had been ready to race in November, and now they were expected to be ready once more with significantly less time to prepare. “I was happy we got a second chance, but I was also worried we wouldn’t be as good as we could have been,” said Armstrong. “Up until the days before the actual meet, I almost thought they’d just cancel it again.” With the announcement of reinstated opportunities to be in the pool reaching the girls less than a month before competition, all had a similar reaction to the news: “Honestly, when I first heard we were going to get to compete again, I was kind of like ‘yeah right’–I couldn’t believe it,” said Malik. “Also, I think most of us had already resigned the season as [being] over and had moved on. So to hear that we were going to compete on about three weeks of training, we were all kind of like ‘yeah, I don’t even know if this is possible.’” Nonetheless, with the support of Coach Schuler, MHS’ athletic department, and family and friends, the girls embarked on an unforgettable journey to accomplish what they had started. “In regards to competing, it’s all about effective use of preparation time,” said Coach Schuler. “The team gave great effort in the select leadup time to the meet, so I felt comfortable about going to compete. Once we left for Grand Rapids, I knew that the hay was in the barn and there was no more prep to do, just time to race, and knowing we did everything I felt we could do, I had nothing but positive anticipation for the meet.” The girls took full advantage of each moment they had together in and out of the pool. 

The State meet presents a nontraditional meet experience for swimmers, as the weekend is filled with excitement for races, as well as enjoyment during the downtime with teammates. All of the girls on the States team have developed strong friendships, and the weekend away only reinforced their bonds: “My favorite part of States was playing games/watching TV and listening to our coach’s squabble over their board game,” Kennedy shared. “We all had a few laughs with that.” The combination of relaxation, board and card games, Italian food and bagels, and laughter provided the group with fun downtime before competition time the next morning. After their entertaining evening together, all of the girls had a great day at the pool as well. “My favorite experience was probably the 200 free relay. Rylie, Mal, Riley, and myself came together and had a really fun/incredible swim,” Glaspie explained. “It was really fun to get All-State and stand on the podium and know all of our hard work was worth it.” 

The results speak for themselves: all five girls had competitive, top-tier races that revealed their perseverance had paid off. Both relays achieved best times, also marking the best placings for those events at MHS since 2009. The team as a whole achieved its highest overall placement since 2008, coming in 16th; Glaspie and Kennedy’s swims were also ranked as top placements by individual Milford swimmers in their events since 2009. The team’s success marks them as undoubtedly the best team MHS has had in a decade, and one of the top five teams in the school’s history.

The evolving nature of the girls’ ability to attend the meet contributed to the immense gratitude that each felt throughout the season, especially in the weeks leading up to States. As explained by Armstrong, “This extension to the season definitely taught me to be more patient and dedicated to swim, and to be grateful for what we have while we have it.” Coaches and swimmers alike learned to adapt to challenges as they arose and will use the knowledge gained from this year’s flexibility to improve future training and preparation. “There is great value in being able to plan ahead as a coach, and there is as great a value in being willing to and creative enough to adapt to changing situations, both positive and negative,” explained Coach Schuler. “That was something I knew beforehand, but it truly showed its worth in a season where adaptability was everything.” The extension to their season also showed the girls that they were capable of more than they thought imaginable, and that change can be an invitation to achieve maximized motivation and enthusiasm amidst unusual situations. “I think this season/extended timeframe has really shown me that I can perform better than I usually think I can under strange circumstances,” Malik stated. “It also kind of showed me that I love this sport more than I thought and that I’d give a lot up for it. I’ll use it as a reason to believe in myself more.”

The Mavs’ success during their final meet demonstrated their willingness to pursue their goals through the unknown with hope that their efforts would be worthwhile. All were thankful for the opportunities granted to them and the positivity that came from the countless hours spent strengthening their minds, bodies, and unity through the sport they love. “[I] could not have asked for a more awesome group of girls to coach for my first year as the Head Coach here at Milford,” Coach Schuler expressed. “It took a second for them to believe in my vision, but they bought in and reaped the successes beyond what they ever conceived at the start of the year. School records or not, this team will serve as the bedrock of success for years to come, and for that I could not be more grateful.”