By Michael Bradshaw
Experience. Focus. Chemistry.
These are all ingredients the Dexter Women’s Swim and Dive team had. Now the Dreads can call themselves Division 2 State Champions.
Dexter went into the meet overlooked and underestimated as a modest 4th seed. The Dreads were excited for the opportunity to prove that ranking wrong.
“I did think we had a chance to win the state championship,” said sophomore Division 2 Swimmer of the Year Annette Schultz. “We had been looking at the rankings and we saw that we were ranked 4th and that was just based on times that were tapered and suited and we were like, ‘oh we are the real deal, so we have a shot at this.’”
Not only did the swimmers and divers know they were the real deal, Head Coach Cory Bergen did as well.
“I knew we were one of the top teams in the state,” said Bergen the Division 2 Coach of the Year, “and I knew we were going to challenge for one of the top three spots.”
Early in the meet, Dexter proved what Bergen had thought all along. He tried to install this same confidence in his girls.
“I always look at the medley relay (the first event) as the initial indicator of how our team is going to perform,” Bergen said. “Our medley relay broke our varsity record and swam one of the fastest times in state history, and I turned around and told my team were real lets go lets do this we’re on. I knew we were going to have a special performance right there.”
Going into day two Dexter was head to head against East Grand Rapids.
Dexter had a lead going into the final event: the 400 Free Relay. Sophomores Sarah Zofchak, Amelia Kinnard, Annette Schultz and Senior Sarah Lynch held the key to victory in their hands. Tensions and emotions ran high
“I was nervous and excited at the same time,” said Sophomore Amelia Kinnard. “We all had to swim our best and nothing less. We got really hyped up and ready to swim fast. We cheered for each other and knew our hard work would pay off and in the end, it did. It was good to have my best friends by my side.”
Coach Bergen went into the ready room to calm his swimmers.
“I went into the ready room three different times,” Bergen said, “which I had never done before, to emphasize to the girls how to be safe on their starts and win the state championship.”
The swimmers were able to stay calm, cool, and collected to secure the victory.
“When they hit the water they swam fast,” Bergen said. “They swam like champions.”
Once the team received its trophy it was time to party like championship — and even break the “no pop” rule.
“At the end of the meet we all ran to the podium and took our pictures and jumped into the pool with Bergen fully clothed,” Schultz said. “Then we went to Buffalo Wild Wings after the meet and drank our first pop of the season.”
Due to the rarity and passion that went into winning this championship, it’s still a surreal event and feeling for many of the swimmers.
“It [being a champion] still hasn’t set in,” Schultz said. “I’m just kinda like ‘whoa, we actually did this,’ but it hasn’t set in.”
This victory is not just a victory for the women’s swim team, but a victory for all of Dexter and its schools.
“Our swim program is a state powerhouse and these young ladies are a point of pride in our community,” Dexter Superintendent Chris Timmis said. “Not only are they tremendous athletes, but they are tremendous students and even better people…the commitment and success they’ve demonstrated in the pool and classroom will translate to equal success in their lives. We couldn’t be prouder of their accomplishments.”
Not only did these victors represent Dexter in an outstanding way, but they showed how this school is successful which will leave an everlasting legacy.
“To finish [the season] off with a state championship is a legacy this team will always have,” Bergen said. “They’ve already proven to me everything they’ve needed to as a coach It’s a really special honor that they’ll have and can enjoy as a team.”
Coach Bergen on his seven seniors
Rachel Clark: “A great work ethic earned her tremendous respect from her teammates and coaches. A popular captain who dropped time every year and served as a great role model for others.”
Jessica Diestel: “Encountered injuries and setbacks, but always found a way to overcome them. Both swam and dove at different times over four years and was always one of the most supportive people on the team. A true team player.”
Sarah Lynch: “Amazing journey from freshman to senior year – finally realizing much of her potential to score individually at the state meet and be part of the 400 free relay that clinched the state title.”
Lizzy Merriman: “A big-time competitor and an emotional leader of the team. The first to say ‘We can win it’ when faced with a formidable challenge and then back it up with her performance. Consistently performed at a high level all four years.”
Kate Mesaros: “Improved maybe more than anyone else over four years in the history of our program. Combined her talent with drive, leadership and off-the-charts mental toughness to provide the key components necessary to put us on top.”
Gretchen Schultz: “A versatile, multi-talented swimmer who always swam what was necessary for the team to be successful. Always had a smile on her face and had her best meet ever at the State Championships to help put us over the top.”
Kaylee Witte: “Strong, tough, consistent performer. Swam for three years and dove for four. Coaches always knew you could count on her. Loved the team aspect and was a big reason the whole team was as close as it was. Ended with her highest finish ever at the state meet.”