Rochester – Gracie Olsen called it “One of the best meets I’ve ever been to.”
In Fenton’s varsity girls swim program history her Saturday efforts probably ranked as the greatest performance by an individual, ever.
A D2 state champion as a freshman in the 200-yard individual medley just one year earlier, Olsen became the first Fenton swimmer to win two individual state championships at the same meet Saturday, earning state titles in the 200-yard freestyle and the 100-yard butterfly at the Division 2 State Girls Swimming and Diving Championships held at Oakland University.
She also helped lead two relays to championship final finishes. Saturday’s finals began with Fenton’s 200 medley relay team of Olsen, Abigail Dolliver, Halee Alexander and Lillie Kromer placing fifth in 1:49.19 – a pretty nice highlight on its own. However, it ended with Fenton’s best relay finish in state meet history when the 400 freestyle relay team of Olsen, Kromer, Delaney Fries and Dolliver placed third in a school-record time of 3:34.55. The Tigers finished the meet in eighth place with 111 points, one of nine teams to score at least 100 points. For more details on the rest of the Tigers’ performance check tctimes.com.
Olsen entered Saturday’s finals after an outstanding Friday in the preliminary races. She dominated her events, winning the 200 freestyle with a time of 1:49.90 (more than two seconds ahead of the rest of the field) and then winning the 100 butterfly with a time of 55.24 (more than a half-second ahead of the rest of the field). She entered Saturday’s finals knowing she’d be the top seed in both races.
“(Friday) was a huge adrenaline rush,” Olsen said. “Going to bed that night all I could think about was swimming today and what would happen. My nerves were going crazy. I had no idea what to expect.”
She ended up finishing with two overwhelming championship performances. First, came the 200 freestyle. Olsen led by a half-second at the halfway point with a time of 52.42 seconds, and then crushed the field in the second 100 yards, finishing with a time of 1:48.98, beating Grosse Pointe South’s runner-up finisher Oliva Yoo (1:51.13) by a considerable margin.
“That race has always been one of my most nerve wracking races, so today all those nerves came back to me,” Olsen said. “I was (wondering) what’s going to happen, what am I going to do. I got up in the ready room, I calmed down and I was like, “This is it. This is the last day” and I just went for it.
“It’s definitely the most painful (event).”
About an hour later, Olsen was competing for her second individual event title (and third of her young prep career) against a familiar foe. Olsen led the first 50 yards of the 100 butterfly finishing in 25.43 seconds and she never lost the lead. She won with a time of 54.62 seconds. Yoo came second in this event as well with a time of 55.57 seconds. Her performance also earned her a spot on the Michigan Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association’s Dream Team.
“It was a lot like the 200 freestyle,” Olsen said. “The 100 fly is my favorite event so I’m always super-excited for it. I definitely got up there with the pain a couple of times, but once you get to that third 25 all I can think about is getting to the wall and everything I have to put in the last 25 (to finish). It was exciting.”
Olsen played a pivotal role in the two relays as well. In the 200 medley relay, she led off and finished the backstroke in a first-place time of 26.51. The Tigers remained around fifth place the rest of the race with strong performances by Dolliver, Alexander and Kromer, posting a time of 1:49.19, just .17 seconds off their prelim time of 1:49.02.
The 400 freestyle relay was an outstanding effort. The Tigers were fifth seeded in the prelim with a time of 3:36.21, already more than a four-second drop off their previous best time this fall. However, it became pretty apparent quickly that the Tigers were looking to break that pace in the final. Olsen finished the first 100 yards in first place with a time of 51.10 seconds, bettering the rest of the leads by more than two seconds. Fenton still led after Kromer finished with a time of 1:45.10, still close to two seconds ahead of the field. Fries bettered her time from the preliminary round by about a second, posting a time of 54.67 seconds, putting the Tigers in a battle for first, but with a couple teams closing the gap. Dolliver capped the Tigers’ performance with a 54.78 time (also a drop from her Friday time), leading the Tigers to a third-place finish in 3:34.55. Midland Dow’s 100 freestyle champion Claire Newman assured Dow’s first-place finish.
“The relay was the best part of the entire meet,” Olsen said. “We had a senior (Kromer) on that relay and she wanted to go out with a bang. We were really happy we could help, and we helped her go out with a bang.”