Mercy shows ‘you don’t have to win to win’ third state swim title in a row


By half a point, Farmington Hills Mercy won the MHSAA Division 1 swim and dive championship for the third year in a row: 298 to 297.5 for Ann Arbor Pioneer.

How do you win by half a point?

“Control the things you can control. Then, swim fast and dive well,” said coach Mike Venos, who now has won three state titles at Mercy to go along with the six he’s won at Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice.

How do you lose by half a point?

That’s something Pioneer coach Stephanie Kerska will probably mull over and over. “Our strategy was to control our controllables, and we did that really well,” Kerska said. She may want to take a hard look at the two points Pioneer, Saline, Rockford and Novi each got a half of.

Venos’ strategy might be summed up as “you don’t have to win to win.” In 36 events over the three championship contests, Mercy has won just one and placed second in four.

Last year, Mercy won by two points over Brighton despite not having a top-3 finish in any event.

“We talk all the time that it’s never about winning,” said Venos at the time. “It’s about being the best, and if they come here and they focus on what they need to do to go fast, they’re going to walk out successful.”

Mercy High School's swimming and diving team celebrates its state championship victory, which it won by a half-point over Ann Arbor Pioneer. (Courtesy photo)

In 2017, in a 29-point win against Saline with just a pair of second-place events, “I tried to get them to believe that you can win a state meet without winning a single event,” Venos said. “We had the team that could do that. We just had to offset (their best) with our depth.”

About the latest conquest last Saturday at the Holland Aquatic Center, one first place and two second places, Venos said, “These girls held it together mentally, which is something we’ve been working on with this senior group for four years.”

Junior Greta Gidley won Mercy’s first event in three finals covering the 100 yard freestyle in 50.53 seconds. She also finished second in the 200 individual medley and swam a leg in the 200 freestyle and 400 freestyle relays.

Junior Ciara McCliment was runner-up in the one-meter diving.

Here’s an event-by-event review of the Marlins victory:

200 medley relay — 5th, 1:46.68 (senior Julia Coffman, freshman Emma May, senior Sarah Puscas, junior Samantha Diaz).

200 freestyle — 5th, Senior Kylie Goit 1:52.73; 7th, senior Chloe Pulick 1:54.12; 8th, Lindsey Case, 1:54.52.

200 individual medley — 2nd, Gidley 2:01.53; 13th, senior Emily Guerrera 2:08.01.

1-meter diving — 2nd, McCliment 403.75.

50 freestyle — 11th, sophomore Madeline Basa 24.40; 12th, freshman Sydney Derkevorkian 24.46.

100 butterfly — 4th, Puscas 57.21; 7th, Diaz 57.45; 10th, Katherine Hutter 57.22.

100 freestyle — 1st, Gidley 50.53; 13th, Pulick 53.21; 14th, Coffman 53.55.

500 freestyle — 3rd, senior Katherine Hutter 5:00.54; 5th, Puscas 5:03.46; 6th, Goit 5:03.7; 8th, Case, 5:06.74.

200 freestyle relay — 3rd, 1:35.92 (Diaz, Basa, Goit, Gidley).

100 backstroke — 13th, Coffman 58.60.

100 breaststroke — 16th, May 1:06.48.

400 freestyle relay — 3rd. 3:28.33 1 (Diaz, Goit, Pulick, Gidley).