The final splash: Marlins finish second at DI states

After a successful season and a sizable state-qualifying team of 18, the Mercy Varsity Swim and Dive team took home the second place trophy in the Division I state championship at Oakland University on Nov. 19. After a rigorous two-day meet and an even more demanding three months, the team had nothing but smiles after their close finish, beaten by Rockford High School by only 10 points.

Despite this, Head Coach Mike Venos is proud of his swimmers.

“I never worry about wins and places because we just can’t control that,” said Coach Venos. “We are only concerned with swimming to the best of our ability, and I think that we did that.”

The wooden trophy represents weeks of morning and evening practices, weight sessions, and late nights and weekends consumed by swim meets. Regardless of the number on the trophy, captain senior Alaina Skellett is also proud of what it means.

“Despite having a new coach and the fact that we didn’t quite know what to expect going into states, we had many girls do their best, which really says something,” said Skellett. “I wouldn’t change anything about our performance, and I’m proud of the team.”

For any team, even one with a history as rich as Mercy’s, having a completely new coaching staff can be challenging. However, the Marlins were able to work toward the same goal, just with a few minor changes.

“I am pretty pleased with the way that everyone responded to the new coaching staff,” said Coach Venos. “It’s always tough coming in as a new coach, especially with not knowing how they rest and or how they will react to certain types of training, but I am very excited, moving forward.”

Skellett agrees that with the inevitable changes and doubts that came along with a new coach, the team learned to handle them in a way that proved to be successful.

“Having a new coach for my senior year was obviously a pretty big change,” said Skellett. “Having us do so well at the end of the season proves without a doubt that [Venos] knows what he’s talking about, and can hopefully help the team do even better next year.”

Looking back, the Catholic League and State Championship helps to define a season of hard work and success. The previous week, Mercy upheld its title of Catholic League champions, which has just as much meaning to Coach Venos as any state title.

“At Leagues, we really got to see everyone come together,” said Coach Venos, who describes Leagues as his favorite meet of the season. “On paper, we were up by 18 points, but we ended up winning by well over 100, which really goes to show the tremendous group effort from the entire team.”

Overall, there is more to be taken away from the end of a season than a trophy or a score.

“I am so proud of how we did, and I am sure that in coming years, we will work back up to that top spot,” said Skellett. “The times from across the state at this meet were incredible, so to do what we did was huge.”

The State Championship meet not only acts as the final meet for many seniors’ high school career, but also as a gauge for future seasons. It is the one meet that state qualifiers rest and fully prepare for all season, and will also be used by Coach Venos.

“It’s nice to get a handle on what we, as coaches, did right and what we didn’t do right,” said Coach Venos. “And having the opportunity to move forward knowing all of that, having that in our back pocket now, I am very excited to move forward.”

Simply put, the Marlins will be ready next summer’s end with another season of practices, meets, and hard work, along with a passion that makes it all worth it.

“As I see it, the feeling-out period is over,” said Coach Venos. “We have the whole world in front of us right now.”