Marquette boys build upon swim dynasty

MARQUETTE – There’s a swimming dynasty brewing in the Upper Peninsula.

For the third year in a row, the Marquette Senior High School boys team won the U.P. title Saturday, dominating the competition with 326 points.

The Redmen finished 121 points ahead of Houghton, which beat out Sault Ste. Marie by three points for second place.

“The kids all swam out of their minds,” Marquette head coach Nathan McFarren said. “I knew we had it in the bag if we didn’t get disqualified and did what we were supposed to do.

“This is probably one of the best U.P. boys swim teams that’s ever been, quite honestly. They lived up to every expectation that I had for them. We’re really blessed to have a team like this. I could never imagine they would’ve done this well at the beginning of the season, but they came together in the end.”

Marquette’s star among its stars was senior Sam Williams, who set three U.P. and pool records on Saturday. He won the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 1 minute, 57.11 seconds, beating the previous record by three seconds.

Williams also broke his own record in the 100 breaststroke in 58.02 seconds and set the record for the 100 freestyle in the opening leg of the 400 free relay at 48.39. First legs of relays can be considered for record times.

Williams was especially happy with his IM record and says that he’ll remember his days at the U.P. Finals.

“I’m probably proudest of the 200 IM today,” he said. “I’ve struggled with that race a lot this year and I haven’t had very good swims. It was finally a good time for me.

“It’s always the greatest when not only do you win, but your team does, too. The moment of stepping up on the podium with the entire team is just amazing. It’s been an amazing experience for me.”

Williams will swim for Northern Michigan University next season where his father, Matthew Williams, is an assistant coach.

Another Marquette boy who shone was Ben Luke. Luke won the 100 butterfly in 57.77 after only being seeded third.

“I’m very happy with how I did,” he said. “I didn’t choose the butterfly until last year. I decided to try something new and I sprinted it pretty well, so I decided to keep going. It’s an amazing feeling to win it today.”

The Redmen swept all three relays, the 200 medley, 200 free and 400 free. Andrew Kilpela was part of two of those wins and was only seven-hundredths of a second behind 100 backstroke winner Matthew LeClaire of Gladstone. LeClaire set a U.P. record in the event in 54.33.

Ishpeming-Negaunee finished fifth overall in the boys meet and had a winner as Peter Leppanen took the 200 free in 1:57.06. The team also finished second to Marquette in the 200 and 400 free relays.

“We had some great swims today,” I-N head coach Peter Kenn said. “The relays were surprising, especially the 400. We were seeded fourth there and ended up second. I’m not sure where that came from, but our seniors helped pull it together.

“It was a phenomenal year for only having seven boys on the team. They worked their tails off.

“With Peter, that was an expected win and he did what he’s done all year. He hasn’t lost in that ever since the last U.P. Finals, so he was pretty motivated to win it in his senior year. He was a big part of my team and he did his best in everything he could.”

On the girls side, it was a tight race. In the end, Gladstone snapped Marquette’s two-year winning streak and took the title with 281 points. Houghton finished second with 244 and Marquette was a close third with 241.

“I thought the girls would be really close to winning it today,” Braves head coach Tom Desy said. “They’ve worked really hard this year and I knew that if they swam their best, they would do it.

“A lot of kids stood out. Our relays did very well and we built up a lot of depth this year. Depth was definitely the key this year.”

Gladstone won all three relays, while Katie Stephenson taking first in the 50 free (25.72) and 100 back (1:04.01), while Sydney Herioux won the 100 breast (1:12.40).

Even though the Redettes’ streak came to an end, McFarren was happy with how his team performed.

“I thought the girls did great,” he said. “We lost a lot of depth from last year’s team. This is kind of a blip in U.P. swimming for the girls, but I think next year, we’re going to be really strong. We’ve got a good freshmen class coming in and a lot of returning swimmers.”

Marquette had two champions as Allison Halpin won both the 200 free (2:06.47) and 100 fly (1:04.79), while Lyndsey Welch finished first in the 500 free (5:41.89).

Westwood took seventh overall as Valerie LaChappelle won the diving on Friday.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246. His email address is