SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. - "And in second place is ," announcer Dyke Justin said.
Suddenly the Sault High pool was dead silent as it had not been all day during the U.P. Swimming Finals. Houghton and Sault High had gone back-and-forth through the entire event and both teams knew it was close.
Little did they know how close it was.
"Sault High," Justin said. "Meaning the Houghton Gremlins are the U.P. champions."
The Gremlins edged the Blue Devils 315 1/2-311 in a meet that wasn't decided until the Gremlins won the 400-yard free relay. Houghton came into the race as favorites, but were trailing the Blue Devils by 5 1/2 points, meaning only first place would clinch their second straight title.
"I was blown away, I was very surprised," Houghton's James DeClerck said. "We had a lot of great swims everywhere. A lot of things shocked us with how well we've done.
DeClerck won both the 200 yard IM and 500 free to lead the Gremlins, and the win in the 200 IM was especially impressive being that he hasn't swam the event often this year.
"I do very well in that, and I just tried hard and got in the zone. I knew I had to win it," DeClerck said.
And in the 400 free relay, Daniel Shonnard, who also won the 200 free, gave DeClerck a nearly 3-second lead to work with in the second leg. DeClerck swam the second-best split of the event - Shonnard's was the fastest - and the win wasn't even in question at that point.
"I didn't think it was that close," Houghton coach Roger Woods said. "I was kinda trying to keep track, but I was also trying to live in the swims, because they were all so good and they were moving up places and they were moving up best times, and I figured what am I going to be doing at this point?"
The Blue Devils led most of the day courtesy of a 40-point advantage after Friday's diving competition. Dillon Mayer and Trevor Gage finished 1-2 in diving, and Elliot Furr was fourth to give the Sault the cushion.
"I thought we had a chance to win it from start to finish," Blue Devils coach Brad Kerr said. "To be that close to a senior-heavy team that seems to win it every year, yes, we were disappointed. Disappointed that we lost, but happy with our performance."
Colin MacQuarrie smashed the U.P. record in the 50 free by 2.33 seconds, becoming the first swimmer to break 23 seconds at U.P. Finals with a 20.85 and was named All-American with the time. He also broke a 24-year-old U.P. record in the 100 fly in 52.80.
"That was just phenomenal," Kerr said. "I can't remember the last time I saw a swimmer have a championship meet like that, to totally come dominate. There's not even anybody close to that guy."
Stuart Rosemurgy won the 100 breast in a pool-record 1:03.71 and took 10 seconds off his time in the 200 free to finish second. Jared Cadwell won the 100 back. The 200 medley relay also set a pool record with 1:45.91.
"I wasn't disappointed at all at any of those guys at the top level," Woods said. "They were top seeds, they beat their top times, and they did what they needed to do. When you come in No. 1, you need to stay No. 1."
The Blue Devils won the 200 free relay in a pool-record 1:33.42 after Mayer caught up to Houghton in the third leg, leaving MacQuarrie to swim his second sub-21-second 50 yards of the day. Kingsford's Josh Johnson won the 100 free.