Forest Hills Central divers displays flashes of brilliance, dominates Division 2 swimming and diving finals
Rochester – To be a diver at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central means that you never feel alone at a big meet.
The Rangers took all five of their divers to the state Division 2 girls’ swimming and diving meet, with all five ending up on the podium on Saturday at Oakland University.
Forest Hills Central was a factor for the team championship because the divers racked up a record 80 points by sweeping the top four places and adding a seventh-place finish. But even with a first-place finish in a swimming event, the Rangers had to settle for third place with 247 points, nine points behind first-place Dexter. East Grand Rapids, the Division 3 winner the last two years, took second with 251 points.
There were great performances in the swimming events, but what Forest Hills Central achieved on the diving board was one of the most remarkable accomplishments for one group of athletes at a state meet in any sport.
Junior Erin Neely repeated as the diving champion with a score of 485.20 points, a Division 2 record and only 4.35 points shy of the Lower Peninsula all-division mark set by Albion’s Elyse Lee in 2003.
"I just felt like it was any other meet," Neely said. "Just go in there and dive."
Sophomore Colleen Kramer was second (424.0 points), junior Nicki Bailey third (417.75), senior Allison Fitzgerald fourth (413.25) and junior Nicole Carlson seventh (375.05) for Forest Hills Central.
"We really push each other to do our best," Kramer said. "It’s nice to compete against them, because I’m always trying to do better and better."
No other team has ever swept even the top three places in the Lower Peninsula finals. By putting five divers in the top seven, Forest Hills Central eclipsed the five divers in the top 10 by Birmingham Groves in the 1983 Class A meet.
"All of them increased their (personal records) by at least 30 points, which is so cool to watch as a coach," said Forest Hills Central diving coach Jasmine Ramahi, a former diver for Grand Valley State University.
"What’s so great is they’re all so close competitively diving-wise, but they can put that aside and be friends. It’s really cool to watch how they push each other, because they know they’re each other’s best competition."
Proving that the Rangers’ program isn’t one-dimensional, sophomore Felicity Buchmaier took to the pool in the first event after diving and won the 100 butterfly in 55.60 seconds.
Before diving, Forest Hills Central was eighth through four events with 38 points. After diving, the Rangers were in first place with 118.
"It skyrockets our scores," Buchmaier said. "It helps us so much. I love our divers."
All five of Rangers’ divers come from a gymnastics background. None of them were swimmers before taking up diving.
A year ago, Forest Hills Central had four of the top eight spots, with Neely taking first, Bailey fifth, Fitzgerald sixth and Kramer eighth.
"It couldn’t have gone better," Ramahi said. "Four of those girls are top-eight returners, so our goal was to get those four back in the top eight. Nicole is our newest state qualifier. It was our goal to get her to the finals in the top 16. She really went above and beyond in her last three dives to clinch that seventh spot."
The 80 points racked up by the diving crew kept Forest Hills Central in contention all the way to the final event, but the Rangers couldn’t quite match the depth across the board of Dexter and East Grand Rapids.
Sophomore Annette Schultz was the star of the meet, winning three events and anchoring a championship-clinching 400-yard freestyle relay finish. She was on the winning 200 medley relay team, then won the 200 and 100 freestyle races.
Dexter needed to finish in the top five in the final event, which East Grand Rapids won. The 32 points the Dreadnaughts received for taking third gave them a five-point victory over the Pioneers, holders of a record 19 state championships.
How much did it bother Schultz that she didn’t win all four of her events?
"It’s not a problem at all," she said with a smile. "I’m very proud of getting that third, because we got first overall."
Senior Claire Young became the first Grosse Pointe South swimmer to win two events in the same state meet, taking the 200 individual medley in 2:04.78 and the 100 backstroke in 55.20 seconds.
East Grand Rapids put itself in a position to win by winning the 200 and 400 freestyle relays with the quartet of Lexus VanHoven, Hanna Sanford, Emily Converse and Gabby Higgins.