IRON MOUNTAIN - Kingsford's swimming and diving team caps its season with a trip to Marquette Saturday for the U.P. Swimming and Diving Finals.
Kingsford heads into this meet with high expectations after showing steady improvement in times throughout the season.
"I am hopeful for both our teams to finish third or fourth overall," Flivvers head Keith Freeman said. "We have a lot of depth and talent on our team this year."
Freeman expects Marquette and Houghton to claim top spots at the meet.
"Those two schools have been a huge challenge for us this year, and I feel they are going to be fighting for the top spot this year."
Among the swimmers to watch Saturday for Kingsford are Maria Pirkola and Josh Johnson.
Pirkola came back to swimming after a three-year break to try basketball.
"She has fallen right back into the groove of things," Freeman said. "She has been doing extremely well this year with her races, and we are putting her in two races where she had the best opportunity to finish as the U.P. champ."
Johnson has only lost one individual race in the last two years - the 50 Freestyle at last year's U.P. finals.
"Johnson has swam a personal best and had a finishing time that was faster than the U.P. record," Freeman said. "But the swimmer he lost to broke the U.P. and state record. Johnson has the ability to break those records but it is going to be hard to do."
Freeman added that Johnson has been working on a few technique things to help improve his chances of this huge goal.
Along with Pirkola and Johnson, Freeman is expecting several others on the team to medal this year.
"I am expecting all of our relay teams for both the boys and girls to medal along with individual medals from Michelle Scheibe and Lacey Walsh for the girls and Pavel Hammar, Keith Holmes, David Plumley, Tanner Walsh and Steven Raboin for the boys"
The Flivvers, for the past two weeks, have been in the taper part of the season, which Freeman says should really help improve the times of the team.
"We may see a few more sneak up on to the podium," he added.
Since returning from holiday break in early January, the Flivvers continued to show consistent improvements.
The Houghton Splash, held in early January, saw the Flivvers brought home medals competing against the likes of Houghton, Hancock, Manistique, Westwood and Ishpeming/Negaunee.
Many Kingsford swimmers, swimming in their first meet since the holiday break, achieved personal best times.
Flivver medal Winners in this meet follow:
Boys 200 Medley Relay Steven Raboin, Keith Holmes, Pavel Hammar, J. Johnson Silver; Girls 100 Freestyle Pirkola Silver; Boys 100 Freestyle J. Johnson Gold; Boys 200 Butterfly Hammar Silver, Tanner Walsh Bronze; Girls 50 Backstroke Michelle Scheibe Silver; Girls 200 Freestyle Cat Peters Bronze; Boys 200 Freestyle Raboin Bronze; Boys 200 Backstroke J. Johnson Gold, Leo Stelmaszek Bronze; Girls 100 Individual Medley Pirkola Silver; Boys 100 Individual Medley Hammar Bronze; Boys 400 Free Relay Aaron Pope, Holmes, Adam Kuehl, Plumley Bronze; Girls 50 Butterfly Kassie Stelmaszek Bronze; Boys 50 Butterfly Walsh Silver; Girls 200 Breast Lacey Walsh Silver; Boys 200 Breast Holmes Gold, David Plumley Silver; Mixed 500 Free Relay Scheibe, Hammar, Pirkola, J. Johnson Silver and Berger, Kuehl, Peters, Plumley Bronze
Personal best times came from:
Pope (50 Back, 100 Free), Lynea Hautamaki (50 Breast), Stelmaszek (50 Breast, 50 Fly), J. Johnson (100 Free), Peters (200 Free), Kristian Stenvig (200 Free), Audreanna Trujillo (50 Free), M. Johnson (50 Free), Shelby Oman (50 Free), J. Johnson (50 Free), Pirkola (100 IM), Hammar (100 IM), Plumley (100 IM), Walsh (100 Free), Stelmaszek (100 Free, 50 Fly), Walsh (50 Fly), Holmes (200 Breast).
In a meet at Houghton a few days later, injuries and illness limited the amount of participants for Kingsford. Houghton won the meet 126-64 on the boys side and 157-80 with the girls. With the number of absences, the Flivvers focussed on individual performances, and numerous personal bests were met - including four first place finishes one team record.
Hagan set a team record in diving. First place efforts were turned in by Pope (200 free), Pirkola (50 free), Hammar (100 fly). The girls 200 freestyle relay also placed first with Berger, Peters, Oman and Pirkola.
Personal bests at Houghton came from:
Pope ( 50 Back, 200 Free), Pirkola (50 Back, 100 Free), Joyce Hoffmann (50 Back), K. Johnson (200 Free, 50 Free), Whitney Wender (200 Free, 50 Free, 500 Free), Amber McLean (50 Free, 100 Free), Ann Koryeshkova (50 Free), Rachel Mentel (50 Free, 100 Fly), Trujillo (50 Free, 100 Back), Hammar (100 Fly), Brandon Graves (500 Free), Emma Schoenborn (500 Free), Stelmaszek (50 Free), Plumley (100 Breast), Oman (100 Free), Hagan (Diving).
A week later at the Marquette Splash and dash, the Flivvers brought home medals against some of the toughest U.P. competition.
Josh Johnson continued his undefeated record by taking first place in the 50 freestyle and achieving a personal best in the 50 backstroke. Allison Healy beat out seven other divers to finish with a third place medal - a great achievement since Healy is the only diver competing that does not have access to a diving board.
"Even though we did not bring home a lot of medals from this meet, we did have the majority of the team swim their fastest times," Freeman noted. "One of the great things about the sport of swimming is you do not have to finish first to have success."
Swimmers with personal best times:
Wender (50 Back, 50 free), Pirkola (100 IM, 50 Free), Peters (100 IM, 50 Back), Ashley Berger (100 IM, 50 Breast), Hautamaki (100 IM), Hammar (100 IM, 50 Fly, 50 Free), Plumley (100 IM, 50 Breast), Stelmaszek (100 IM, 50 Fly), Hoffmann (50 Free), Johnson (50 Free), Raboin (50 Free), Walsh (50 Free), Pope (50 Free), Smeberg (50 Free), Graves (50 Free), Holmes (50 Fly, 50 Breast), Hagan (50 Fly), Kuehl (50 Fly), Schoenborn (50 Back), Johnson (50 Back), Stenvig (50 Back), Mentel (50 Free).