Houghton finishes strong, sweeps Kingsford

Leo Wheeler competes in the 500 yard freestyle. Wheeler won the race, finishing in 5:59.70. (Eden Laase/Daily Mining Gazette

HOUGHTON — It’s tradition, but that doesn’t mean Houghton swim coach Erik Johnson has to like it.

On Thursday, Houghton competed in its last swim meet of the season before U.P. Finals, and that means Johnson’s swimmers get the privilege of tossing their coach, fully clothed, into the pool. They kindly allowed him to remove his phone and hand off his clipboard before making him take the plunge, and when Johnson got out of the pool, and rang out his cargo shorts, the coach was all smiles.

That’s because the boys swim team defeated Kingsford 111-56, and the girls came away with a 115-60 victory. Nine boys and 15 girls qualified for the U.P. Finals on Feb. 16 and 17.

Plus, Johnson got to see a tradition he actually likes on full display.

His swimmers are known for the way they cheer on their teammates, but on Tuesday when the Gremlins battled Ishpeming-Neagunee, their usual energy was lacking. This time, that was far from the case.

“The energy was insane,” Johnson said. “Today, start to finish this place was rocking, which really helps the swimmers when they get tired. I was a little disappointed with how we started out Tuesday. I don’t usually have to have that talk with them, but I took the captains aside and they really stepped up today.”

Their energy helped the Gremlins finish first in 19 of 24 events.

“They have worked super hard all season, and I don’t go easy on them,” Johnson said. “We do a lot of technique and that daily grind is tough. The whole squad has shown monumental improvement from day one until now.

Johnson was particularly impressed with first-year competitor, freshman Eva Anderson, who qualified for U.P. Finals in backstroke. She finished fifth in a time of 1:22.00, cutting a full 23 seconds off her time from her first race this season. Teammate Wonyoung Choi won the event in 1:12.92.

He was also impressed with the boys 400 freestyle team, which finished first in a time of 3:48.93 — four seconds better than its previous time. The team is made up of Colton Haataja, Leo Wheeler, Seth Helman and Kevin Beaghan.

Two other Houghton swimmers were able to take advantage of their last race and qualify for U.P. FInals: Irene Ra, who was third in the 200 IM with a time of 2:56.86, and Lincole Li, who was fourth in the 100 breastroke with a time of 1:28.71.

Captain Leo Wheeler posted personal bests in the 200 freestyle (2:08.50) and the 500 freestyle (5:59.70)

OTHER FIRST-PLACE FINISHERS

In the girls 200 medley relay the team of Choi, Mikayla Sague, Tessa Meyer and Samantha Olson finished first in 2:04.93.

Olson won the 200 freestyle in 2:11.82, and Wheeler won the boys event in 2:08.50.

Meyer was first in the 100 butterfly, finishing in 1:10.97, Haataja won the boys 100 freestyle in 54.16, and Olson was first in the girls 500 freestyle in 5:53.80.

The boys team of Alex Busov, Clayton Bulleit, Zane Roose and Xavier Tarvainen took first in the boys 200 freestyle relay, finishing in 2:09.16.

Kevin Beaghan was first in the 200 IM in 2:24.67 and Haataja finished first in the 50 freestyle with s time of 24.29.

Autumn Sanders was first in the girls 1 meter diving (160.0) and Andrew Garland won the boys event (173.20).

Ann Derochers, Choi, Ra and Meredith Raasio won the girls 200 freestyle in 1:54.37, and Haataja, Beaghan, Helman and Wheeler finished first in the boys event in a time of 1:43.92.

Choi finished first in the 100 backstroke in 1:12.92 and Odegard was first in the boys event in 1:05.61.

Houghton wrapped up the race with a win in the girls 400 freestyle relay. Justin Ra, Olson, Meyer and Sague finished in 4:09.21.

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