SWIM & DIVE PREVIEW: Coach Brunty Expects Saline to Be Back in the Mix for a State Trophy

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Saline finished ninth at the Division 1 state meet last year.  The meet came Jan. 20 - months after the team’s final meet after the MHSAA pledged to hold the finals in fall sports seasons paused due to the rising COVID pandemic. Some of the girls elected to stay home. Some went to the championship meet held at Hudsonville High School.

Coach Todd Brunty was proud of the way his team battled through the strangest season of his career. Still, it was the first time since 2008 Saline finished lower than fourth place. The top four teams bring home one of those MHSAA trophies.

“Because of the way things went down for the first time in I don’t know how many years - since I’ve been coaching - we finished out of the top four,” said Brunty. “That’s definitely something we want to get back to. We want to be in that mix, for sure.”

It helps, of course, that things are almost “back to normal.” The team isn’t starting the season wondering if there will be a season. They don’t have to find outside pools for practice. They’re able to have lockers again. And, perhaps most importantly, team events - dinners and bonfires - are happening again.

“Last year, it was like, you show up, jump in the pool, and then you have to leave and go home. We’re doing a lot of the traditional things, we’re working hard and we’re building camaraderie,” Brunty said.

And while the Hornets didn’t have the kind of success they were used to, they still had a heck of a season by most standards.

The following all-state performers return.

  • Alice English (4th in diving)
  • Samantha Graden (6th in the 100 butterfly, 7th in 200 medley relay, 7th in the 400 freestyle relay)
  • Bella Arbaugh (7th in 200 medley relay, 15th in 200 freestyle, 15th in the 500 freestyle, 7th in the 400 freestyle relay)
  • Sam Bullard (13th in the 100 butterfly, 14th in the 100 backstroke, 15th in the 200 free relay)
  • Ava Turner (16th in diving)
  • Megan Socha (7th in 200 medley relay, 15th in the 200 free relay)
  • Allison Ploutz-Snyder (15th in the 200 free relay)
  • Kylie Evenson (12th in the 100 backstroke, 15th in the 200 free relay, 7th in the 400 freestyle relay)

Several girls just missed podium performances last year. Evenson was just .13 seconds away from a medal in the 200 freestyle. Socha wasn’t far off in the 100 freestyle, taking 22nd. She was also two spots away from the podium in the breaststroke. Ploutz-Snyder was two spots off an all-state medal in the 500 freestyle.

This year, the team is led by captains Sam Graden, Abigail Phillips and Allison Ploutz-Snyder.

“We’ve got a great group of captains who lead a strong senior class,” Brunty said.

In addition, senior Amelia Hayes is familiar with the all-state podium. As a sophomore, she was fourth in the backstroke. helped the 200 medley team to a third-place finish, finished 12th in the IM, and helped the 400 freestyle relay team take sixth.

In addition, Brunty said he has hopes that many girls, like Carolina Klein, Courtney Marsh and Ellerie Brunty, his daughter, will have a big year.

“We’ve got a lot of contributors. We might not have a lot of superstars, but we’ve got a lot strong, solid swimmers and good divers who are going to help us do well,” Brunty said.

Brunty said there are a few areas that must be improved. He said the IM and freestyle sprints have room for improvement.

The team has 16 divers this season.

“It’s a nice problem to have. Some schools can’t find two divers. The competition will make them all better,” Brunty said.

Front row, L to R: Campbell Murphy, Johanna Ehrman, Caroline
Klein, Isabel Basulto, Erica Schultz, Nadia Stevenson, Abby Phillips, Allison Ploutz-Snyder,
Sam Graden, Courtney Marsh, Miranda Stanish, Jillian Bradin, Amelia Hayes, Lindi Jenkins

Middle row, L to R: Payton Spence, Hannah Ross, Rachel Bryant-White,
Julia Peuhl, Nora McGillicuddy, Stefania Lopiccolo, Avery Michowski, Kylie Evenson, Sam Bullard, Bella Arbaugh, Ellie Brunty, Sophia Mattson, Cathy Su

Back row, L to R: Coach Kara Smith, Coach Todd Brunty, Ella Hopson,
Sophia Parisek, Nani Sanna, Victoria Weeden, Joann Oyemba, Macy Ahrens, Megan Socha, Izzy Whalen, Alice English, Ava Turner, Coach Alan Duski

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