Swimming: Dreads accomplish much more than fast times and state medals in a challenging season

The Dexter swimming and diving team finished 10th last Saturday at the MHSAA Division 2 State Finals at the Northview Aquatic Center to complete a very challenging and quite different kind of season. The beginning was strange – starting practices outdoors – and the ending was equally unusual – the state meet was held in 2021 instead of 2020.

To finish top 10 is quite the accomplishment under normal circumstances. But this season wasn’t really about times or places or medals. It was about realizing and completing something that is very important to a lot of people in so many ways.

“Our goal this year was to keep everyone safe and try to squeeze the most meaningful experiences we could out of this season,” said longtime Dexter coach Cory Bergen.

And from that standpoint, the Dreadnaughts finished first. They kept everyone safe and accomplished plenty of “meaningful experiences.”

The state finals are scheduled every year in November but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the MHSAA shut down all sports in early November. There was no timetable for a rescheduled date, only hope that the MHSAA would be allowed to continue the unfinished fall sports, including volleyball, football and swimming.

When the date was set, swim teams had only a limited time to prepare. Some athletes on many teams even opted out of participating – and who could blame them. But others wanted to put at least a period, if not an exclamation point, on the season.

Coach Shawn Bergman and the Dexter divers.

The Dreadnaughts brought seven swimmers and three divers to the Division 2 State Finals. And the accomplished a first in program history. Bergen said every one of their swimmers and divers who competed at the state meet earned at least one medal for a top-16 finish. Now that’s what you call an exclamation point.

“Our goal was to compete as hard as we could, be happy for ourselves and our teammates, celebrate finishing a season on Jan. 16 that started on Aug. 12 and make some memories together,” Bergen said. “I’m happy to say that we did that and then some.”

Bergen said he felt like the Dreadnaughts were ready to compete last Saturday.

“I felt like we were really ready to go heading into the originally scheduled state meet two months ago,” he said. “The two ‘pauses’ in our team training we had to take really changed everything. The MHSAA was determined to have a ‘culminating activity’ for our sport and that’s really what it was Saturday at Grand Rapids Northview HS.

“We had great efforts and smiles all day long and it was a long day. I couldn’t be prouder of a group of girls. Going in, I thought that a top 10 finish would be fantastic and was happy that we finished 10th.”

Dexter was led by the strongest diving program in the state.

Dexter’s Lily Witte won diving for the second consecutive year and she did it in record fashion. Only a sophomore, Witte repeated as the diving champion with 486.95 points – an LPD2 Finals record. Dexter junior Elysa Grossman was fifth with 367.55 points and Dexter sophomore Vivian Kinnard was seventh with 358.45 points as the Dreadnaughts landed three divers in the top seven.

“Coach Shawn Bergman and the divers showed everyone that we are still the premier diving squad in the state on Friday with Lily, Elysa and Vivian all earning All-State honors for the second year in a row,” Bergen said. “Lily threw down a new state record in diving on Friday and then showed her unique versatility by swimming on two state relays and earning medals in both on Saturday.”

Lily was named State Diver of the Meet and Coach Bergman was named State Diving Coach of the Year, both for the second consecutive year.


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