MARQUETTE - It wasn't a traditional swim meet, but the 2013 Splash-N-Dash provided a chance for athletes from around the Upper Peninsula to get their toes wet in preparation for the MHSAA U.P. Finals.
Eight teams took to the Marquette Senior High School pool on Saturday in a meet that allowed schools to enter as many athletes per event as they wanted. Marquette senior swimmer Gwen Hoenke said it gave her a chance to try events new to her.
"It was really just a fun meet, just a chance to see what we've got and for all the teams to come and swim together. It's been a blast," Hoenke said. "It's been fun to branch out and do some different strokes, because normally I don't get to do backstroke or breaststroke, so it's been a good time."
Westwood High School teammates Vic Bitencourt, left, and Tilmann Quanz dive off the blocks at the start of their heat in the 50-yard freestyle event at the 2013 Splash-N-Dash high school swimming and diving meet at Marquette Senior High School on Saturday. (Journal photo by Zach Jay)
At most high school meets, the backstroke and breaststroke events are 100 yards long but for the Splash-N-Dash the distance was cut in half, giving more athletes the chance to try numerous events.
"It was supposed to be a really fun meet and it was," MSHS diving coach Laura Conway said. "I still saw all the swimmers and all the divers pushing themselves on swimming events they haven't done before or maybe haven't done in a while, and all my divers have tried new dives."
For Conway, the meet allowed all her divers a chance to compete. In traditional meets, only three girls and three boys represent their school. In the Redmen's case, they had eight male divers and Conway said sometimes it's weeks before a particular athlete gets a chance to participate.
"Having them just be able to dive in a competitive environment, even though it's not a team scoring kind of thing, it gets the cobwebs out of their system and it gives them the feel of it," she said.
Marquette senior diver Austin Smith said the meet is a good bridge into the JV finals, which is a qualifying meet for the U.P. Finals. Smith made it last year as a junior and said he thinks he'll be more prepared for the big stage this season.
"I overthought my dive because it was the first time I had been in something like that," Smith said. "I was thinking I had to get it just perfect and I messed up big time. I was pretty unprepared since this is the most major sport I've ever competed in.
"It was a very big deal for me back then and this year it's still a big deal, but I'm a lot less stressed about it and I know how things work now and I can figure things out for myself."
Marquette will also host this year's U.P. Finals on Wednesday, Feb. 16. Conway expects being at home to help Marquette. The Redettes are looking to capture their 12th straight U.P. girls title.
"It's going to be really nice because everyone's families are going to be here; friends can come and watch them," Conway said. "It's also going to be comfortable for the divers because we're going to be diving off a very familiar board and have very familiar surroundings."