Rochester Hills — Entering the final event at the 2021 Division 2 MHSAA Girls Swimming and Diving Championship, the Fenton Tigers still had a mission to accomplish.
The squad wanted to become the first Fenton girls swim team to ever bring home a Division 2 team trophy. They had done it in 1999 and 2000 when the Tigers brought home a fourth-place finish when the state meet was a Class B/C/D event, but never in the current Division 2 format.
The Tigers entered the 400 freestyle relay tied with Birmingham Groves with the final event going to decide who was going to take home the fourth-place team trophy.
Fenton’s 400 freestyle relay team of Sophie Stefanac, Tess Heavner, Sana Saab and Gracie Olsen combined to take third place in the event — two places ahead of Birmingham Groves’s
fifth-place effort — earning the Tigers their much desired hardware. Fenton finished the D2 state meet at Oakland University with a school-best point total of 154, earning fourth by four points. Grand Rapids Northview finished third with 191 points while Grosse Pointe South (241) and Birmingham Seaholm (314.5) finished second and first, respectively.
“It was just so exciting,” Fenton junior Sana Saab said about the final relay. “The last event — there’s so much adrenaline and so much cheering, it’s exciting. You do it and you just jump in. It’s an awesome amazing feeling. To be out there and you know you’ve been working hard all season, knowing that it is obtainable, and it is. We got it.”
“It’s crazy because we’ve never had it in team history before,” fellow junior Sophie Stefanac said. “I feel it’s a great group of girls to earn it with and we all worked do hard for it.”
“We knew what we had to do and we all just tried our hardest and it worked out for us,” freshman Tess Heavner said.
Overall, the Tigers accomplished more than a fourth-place team finish. Olsen captured two more individual state titles, giving her six for her prep career. Heavner finished second to Olsen in one of those events and earned a third in another event while Heavner had a states final and a consolation final race of her own. Finally, the squad opened Saturday’s championship day with a third-place finish in the 200 medley relay. All of the points collected were needed to earn the fourth-place team finish, but it was the 400 freestyle relay that the final points were earned.
The Tigers opened the race with Stefanac posting a 55.19 time during her 100 yards. The Tigers were about .6 seconds ahead of Groves at that time. Heavner, a freshman, was Fenton’s second swimmer and finished her 100 with a time of 53.03 seconds, putting the Tigers in a comfortable third place, about three seconds of Groves at the time. Saab was next and swam a 54.80, keeping the Tigers in third during her 100. Finally, Olsen, a senior, capped her Fenton prep career with a time of 50.14 during her 100, icing up third place easily, about four seconds faster than Groves.
“We knew that this was going to be the most intense race the whole meet,” Olsen said. “I think we all could feel it, and we knew we were going to do this. There’s no way we can’t do this, and it all came together. There was some emotions before that — oh my gosh, this is the last one — but the fact we pulled it off, I think is amazing. I knew we could and the end result is so cool.”
“It’s been 2000 since our last trophy and this was our first one in Division 2,” Fenton varsity girls swim coach Brad Jones said. “We knew this group coming in when Gracie was a freshman was going to be special and at the beginning of the year we looked where we were at and knew that this was possible. We thought it would come down to the 400 free relay and we knew if it did, we had the girls to do it. The girls knew exactly where we were and what they had to do. And with Gracie on the anchor, you couldn’t feel more confident when it’s that close. When you are in a tight situation and you have Gracie as your anchor, there’s no better way.”
Saturday’s second day of the meet began with Fenton’s 200 medley relay team of Stefanac, Heavner, Olsen and Saab taking third with a time of 1:46.38.
The next event was another pretty outstanding moment when Olsen and Heavner finished 1-2 in the 200 individual medley, giving Olsen her fifth individual state title of her career. Olsen posted a time of 2:02.90 while Heavner finished with a time of 2:04.60. Three events later, Olsen won her sixth — and final — individual event title while she won the 100 butterfly with an All-American time of 54.19. That helped set up the Tigers’ run for a team trophy.
Stefanac picked up a few more team points with a 14th-place finish in the 100 freestyle (54.35), and followed that effort with an All-State fifth-place effort in the 100 backstroke (58.53). Heavner put together her second All-State individual performance in the next race, the 100 breaststroke. She posted a time of 1:04.39. Those points helped set up the 400 freestyle relay being the vital event to earn the Tigers their fourth-place team performance.
“From the very beginning when I showed up in camp, I started feeling the team energy,” Heavner said. “It’s always super fun to swim with these girls and represent Fenton.”
“It’s amazing. I love this team,” Saab said. “Honestly, this is the most fun I’ve ever had swimming. This was my first time going to states. The excitement and how everyone is cheering up and down and yelling — I don’t think I could ever forget it.”
“Just the bond we have together is so special,” Stefanac said. “We are just like a big family and we just all are really good friends. (This meet) is going to be surrounded by happy memories. It was all good.”
The Tigers had other performers that competed during Friday’s first day who didn’t advance to the second day. The 200 freestyle relay team of Saab, Halee Alexander, Addison Dolliver and Rose Haney missed qualifying for the second day by .21 seconds, taking 18th with a time of 1:44.16. Haney also competed in the 200 individual medley and finished 29th during the prelim with a time of 2:18.27. Finally, diver Ella Koch ended up placing 32nd with a score of 117.10.