Huron Valley swimmers dive into first combined season 


The team after becoming Conference Champions on Nov. 6 (Photo courtesy of Lisa Elliot).

Gracie Smetana, Assistant Editor

Swimmers from both Milford and Lakeland used to mark the date on the calendar when they would race one another, ready to beat their rivals and take bragging rights for the year ahead.

Now, these two rivals are sharing the same pool and working together for the same cause. Milford and Lakeland Girls Swim and Dive combined into HVU Swim and Dive due to small numbers on both teams and difficulty finding coaches.

While the decision may have at first led to some anxiety, this change has made the team stronger than ever. The team is off to a 6-1 start and is hoping to claim many more victories and eventually win the Conference Championship at the end of the season.

However, the combination didn’t come without some growing pains considering the rivaled past between the two. “I think many people were afraid of being pushed down the totem pole when we first combined,” said Milford Senior Captain Anna Malik. “However, a lot of us have come to realize that there are better opportunities through training for us to get faster now that we are combined.” Lakeland Senior Captain Jessica Duff agrees.

“People like to stay with what they are comfortable with, and when you’re leaving the team you have been on and making a new one with a bunch of people you don’t know and new coaches, I know a lot of people did not want to be a combined team.” After diving into the new combined environment head on, swimmers and divers are  realizing that this change was for the better.

Since the swim programs from both Milford and Lakeland have combined into one, they became a much larger team than each of the schools were used to in the past. With a team of 34 girls, the team faced some unique challenges.

“We have two practice groups because there’s too many of us to fit in the pool everyday,” said Milford Junior Mallory Armstrong. Head Coach James Schuler added, “We have to accommodate larger practice groups, which has resulted in some expanding coaching hours for the coaching staff, but that has all been worth it to coach the group we have this year.” Combining the two teams into one has created much more depth and strength for dual meets. “We are able to fill every event. We can swim with more than three relay teams.

We have the flexibility for athletes to swim different events each meet and mix up their competitions,” said Schuler. With the large number of swimmers, they have the opportunity to beat South Lyon for the first time in Lakes Valley Conference history. South Lyon has won the conference in both girls and boys swim and dive since the Lakes Valley Conference was created in 2017. The team swam against South Lyon Girls Swim & Dive on Oct. 14 at 6 p.m. at South Lyon East. HVU became the first team in the LVC to defeat South Lyon Girls Swim & Dive with a final score of 101-84. South Lyon had been undefeated for five years prior to this dual meet!

Wanting to achieve such difficult goals comes with hours of hard work and dedication. Swimmers attend weight training every Monday and Wednesday from 5:15-6:30 a.m., then attend a full day of classes before practicing for 2 hours and 15 minutes after school, plus three hours on Saturday.

“This is one of the strongest teams I’ve ever been on,” said Lakeland Senior Captain Emily Dexter. “When there’s a will, there’s a way,” she added. The team also has high expectations for daily practice effort and at meets. “My first and biggest goal early was establishing our culture, expectations, and routines; THIS is how we do things, THIS is what I expect in practice, THIS is the effort I need you to bring every day,” shared Schuler. “For the most part, the team has adjusted to a lot of those new elements well and it is something that led to early improvements at the start of the season and will continue to drive improvement as the season progresses.”

The team competed against Waterford United at home on Thurs. Sept. 30 at 6 p.m. The team had an at home victory with a score of 126-33 and won 11 of the 12 events.

They then traveled to Clarkston High School on Sat. Oct. 2 for the Oakland County Championship Meet, followed by the Michigan Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association (MISCA) Meet held at Calvin College on Oct. 9. At the Oakland County Championship Meet, HVU placed 12th overall with a score of 77 points. The County Team consisted of Anna Malik, Gracie Smetana, Mallory Armstrong, Riley Morgan, Karolina Spiewak, Elle Dameworth, Coral Hebert, Lauren McCaul, and Mya Hutchinson. HVU had another very successful invite at MISCA’s including the 200 Freestyle Relay earning a state qualifying time.

The team is looking forward to continuing an already successful season and expects many more great swims and meets to follow. “I’m focused on helping our swimmers and relays be the best versions of themselves,” Schuler added. “The ultimate goal of this effort is twofold; come the end of the season I would like for as many swims as possible to be personal bests with some of which being good enough to qualify swimmers and relay teams to the MHSAA State Championship Meet.”

The State Championship Meet for division one will take place on Nov. 19-20 at Holland Aquatic Center. The team is excited to continue training and working hard to achieve their goals this season and are optimistic to come home with a trophy at the end of the year. Overall, the team is hopeful and excited for what the remainder of the season  bring.