ROCHESTER -- Camryn McPherson, Maddie Luther and the 400 relay team returned to Saline as state champions as the Hornets took third at the Division 1 state championship held Friday and Saturday at Oakland University
McPherson, the defending state champion in one-meter diving, finished the tournament with a score of 509.5, beating the Division 1 record set by Saline’s Amy Stevens in 2014.
Luther, a sophomore, emerged as one of the state’s brightest stars, bested her own school record to win the 200-yard free style in 1:48.34.
Another state record fell in the 400-yard freestyle relay, where Luther, Johanna Jorgenson, Maddy Murphy and Lizzy Spears blew away the field to win in 3:24.44.
Despite taking three events, the Hornets finished in third place with a score of 231.5. Rockford won with 249 and Mercy was second with 239. Saline entered Saturday trying to gain ground on Mercy and Rockford. After Friday’s preliminary round, Mercy led Saline by nearly 20. Mercy was also ahead of Rockford by six points.
But while the Hornets gained or maintained in nearly every event, so did Rockford.
“That’s what championship day is all about – doing everything you can do try and win the thing. We just didn’t have enough today. We gave it everything we had. That’s all you can ask. I’m really proud of the way we competed,” Saline coach Todd Brunty said. “You have to credit Rockford. Every time we moved up a couple points and make up some ground, they’d come back and do something.”
The Hornets didn’t get enough girls through to the finals and consolation rounds.
“Our girls did an outstanding job, but I thought we could have done a little better yesterday to set up more today,” Brunty said. “All in all we did well. We’ll just get back to work and be in position next year to be fighting for it again.”
Still, the Hornets came home with hardware, as the MHSAA now presents trophies to the top four teams. SEC Red rival Skyline placed fourth to bring home the final trophy.
McPherson, a senior, went out on top. Her state record-breaking performance is even more impressive considering she was in first place after the preliminary score.
“After my first couple dives I was kind of shaky at the beginning, but I thought about getting points for my team,” McPherson said. “I settled down and decided to have fun and help out my team.”
McPherson, who will dive at Ohio State University, gained the lead in the semifinals and then zoomed away from her pursuers to win her second straight championship.
“It’s exciting. I’m just glad to get points for the team. It’s a huge win for us, so I’m excited,” McPherson said after her victory.
Asked to reflect on her Saline High School diving career, McPherson smiled.
“I loved it. It was so fun. I wouldn’t be the person I am now if I wasn’t on this team,” McPherson said. “These girls are my best friends.”
McPherson has been a key piece of four terrific Saline swim and dive teams.
“With the work she put in and the time she put in and the sacrifices she made, that’s a great way to go out. She deserves it,” Brunty said. “She’s going out as the best diver in the history of the state of Michigan. That’s impressive stuff. We were real fortunate to have her on our team and we’re so proud of what she accomplished.”
One of the great stories on Saturday was Maddy Murphy, who swam for the last time as a Hornet. She barely qualified in the backstroke and butterfly Friday. On Saturday, she went 15th to 10th in both races, picking up points and helping Saline get closer to Rockford and Mercy.
“That’s Maddy Murphy,” Brunt said. “She’s heart and soul. When her team needed she stepped up and did the job. She did so well today that she’s got colleges looking at her today. College coaches notice what she did today. That’s special what she did today. That’s great senior leadership from her.”
Luther is one of the girls who will take a leadership role next year when this crop of seniors is gone.
“She learned what it took today to win a state meet race. It’s tough to do. And this was the fastest Division 1 state meet ever,” Brunty said. “She’s young and she’s only going to get better.”
Saline opened the meet by taking fifth in the 200-yard medley. Murphy, Spears, Emily Klemptner and Lisa Gross finished in 1:45.48. They beat a school record of 1:45.64 set in 2012 by Maddie Frost, Christina Czyrka, Emily Lau and Nikki Flynn.
Luther than won her 200-yard freestyle in 1:48.34 – shaving almost a full second off her own school record of 1:49.21, set in Friday’s preliminary.
Lizzy Spears broke her own record in the 200-yard IM. She was third in 2:01.78, almost two seconds faster than Friday’s 2:03.53. Going into the tournament, Spears’ time of 2:05.10 was the school record.
Freshman Johanna Jorgenson was fifth in the 50-yard freestyle, finishing in 23.56 -- .09 seconds off Maddie Frost’s 2012 school record.
In diving, McPherson finished with a score of 509.50 to win by nearly 35 over Skyline sophomore Zain Smith. McPherson broke the state record set of 488.2 set by Amy Stevens in 2014.
Murphy shaved nearly a full second off her time to improve from 15th to 10th in the butterfly. She finished in 57.73.
Jorgenson broke the school record in the 100 freestyle and finished fifth in 51.02. Amelia Armstrong-Grant had set the record of 51.19 in 2014.
Luther set the school record as she placed second in the 500 freestyle. She swam the race in 4:52.50 to break Alex McPherson’s record, 4.55.25, set in 2014.
Another school record fell in the 200-yard free relay where Jorgenson, Luther, Gross and Sarah Burchart finished third in 1:35.19. They broke the school record of 1:36.52 set in 2011.
In the 100 backstroke, Murphy went from tied for 14th to 10th. She finished the race in 57.67, more than a second faster than Friday’s time.
Spears was eighth in the breaststroke, finishing in 1:04.95. Sophomore Lauryn Kruse finished 11th in 1:07.46.
The Hornets entered the last race needing with almost no chance of winning the meet, but they went out like champions. Luther, Jorgenson, Murphy and Spears won the 400 freestyle relay in 3:24.44, breaking not only the school record but the MHSAA Division 1 record.