Girls Varsity Swimming · Girls Swim and Dive Wins the Downriver Classic – 28Sep19


The 2019 team posing with the Downriver Classic champions trophy

Trenton marched into Allen Park High School looking to defend their three year stranglehold on the Downriver Classic (former News Herald Invitational). They walked out having left no room for doubt that they are the top downriver girls swim and dive team. Their 287 points walloped the competition, leaving the only drama being which teams would claim 2nd – 4th place. As it turned out, the distant runner-up was Grosse Ile HS with 177 points. They nipped the host Jaguars by 3 points, who in turn eeked out their podium spot, just a single point ahead of 4th place Riverview (173).

This 2019 edition is led by four senior co-captains who made sure that the team was focused from the start. Alexa Francis, Dayna Franzel, Jessalyn Marshall, and Emma McClelland are part of a senior class that has only known victory at this downriver wide meet. Emma got the party started as she led off the first event, the 200 Medley Relay, with her backstroke. She partnered with her sophomore sister Jane McClelland (breaststroke) as well as juniors Olivia Livernois (butterfly), and Kelly Truitt (freestyle) to take the top spot with a D3 state qualifying time of 1:55.88. Their time was fast enough that they even qualified for the D2 state cut. The B relay also swam very well, and while the meet rules don’t permit a second relay from a single school to score points, Ava Gajewski, Jessalyn Marshall, Dayna Franzel, and Emma Donovan clocked in at 2:04.34, the 5th fastest overall time among the ten competing teams.

The following race featured two of the fastest sophomores in the state, as Erika Pietras from Grosse Ile looked to defend her win over Jane McClelland from one year ago at this same event. To put their times in perspective, let’s look back to 2017 when two seniors duked it out, with Trenton’s Lauren Truitt taking the title with a 2:04.21. As freshmen a year ago, Erika and Jane put on a show, with Erika claiming the top spot (2:00.62), just 0.24 seconds ahead of Jane (2:00.86). This year, the two battled again, pushing each other to even lower times. Erika again claimed first, and her 1:56.71 broke the pool record of 1:57.33 set in 2007. Jane’s 1:58.44 was enough to claim a D2 state cut as a D3 swimmer. They will face each other in this event two more times this year, as Trenton will host GI in a dual meet on October 10th, and then again at the D3 state meet in November. Also in this event, Trenton’s Kelly Truitt scored points in 7th with a 2:12.77, and Ava Gajewski placed 9th (2:14.53).

The 200 Individual Medley held the promise of a dual between teammates Olivia Livernois and Emma McClelland and they did not disappoint. The diminutive duo might not look intimidating on the deck, but good luck trying to beat them in the water. They did indeed take the top two spots, trading the lead during the event. Olivia led them out during the butterfly, and through the next 50 of backstroke, still held a short body length advantage. Emma caught up during the breaststroke and they each raced their hearts out in the freestyle, as they both earned a D3 state cut in the event. Emma (2:18.53) and Olivia (2:20.97) were each better than the 2:20.99 standard. Sophomore teammate Allison Cullen took the 8th spot (2:36.79), earning points for the team, as the top 12 places all score.

The Splash and Dash 50 freestyle was next, and Trenton claimed 12th, 16th, and 18th positions by junior Rachel Stapleton (27.82), Dayna Franzel (28.96), and sophomore Delilah Yarbrough (29.76). Trenton also had many girls swim the event as exhibition (meet rules restrict teams to only 3 competitors per individual event). Among the exhibition swimmers, senior Jessica Frank claimed the top time with her 29.01 and sophomore Grace Mundt was 3rd (29.77).

After the twenty heats of 50 freestyle (yes, you read that correctly), it was time to finish the diving. On Wednesday evening, the divers competed their first eight dives of the competition. On Saturday, they complete their final three dives, without repeating any dives. Heading into Saturday, sophomore Samantha Plough was sitting pretty in first place, with classmate Ava Berger not too far behind in 3rd or 4th . Once they completed their dives, Ava had moved up to 2nd place, and Samantha had extended her lead to over 100 points, finishing with 381.25 to Ava’s 274.45. Samantha’s point total was among the highest ever scored at Allen Park HS, as she scored better than any AP diver ever, while getting close to the pool record set by Trenton’s Mandy Kell in 2011.

Back between the lane lines, Olivia Livernois led the way from start to finish in the 100 butterfly. Her 1:03.39 was just 0.3 seconds from a state cut. Jessalyn Marshall continued her very strong day of swims as she turned in a 1:07.45 and claimed 4th place. Allison Cullen scored again with a 12th place (1:13.97).

The 100 freestyle was a great race between Julia Gutierrez of Wyandotte (56.69) and Olivia Crawford of Allen Park (56.94). They traded positions, as they finished in the opposite order atop the 50 freestyle standings. For Trenton, Rachel Stapleton led the way in 10th (1:01.75), followed by freshman Emma “Yemma” Donovan in 13th (1:02.73) and Dayna Franzel  (1:05.33) in 15th.

Having rested up for a while after their duel in the 200 freestyle, GI’s Pietras and Trenton’s Jane McClelland squared off again, this time in the 500 freestyle. With both already achieving state cuts, it was just a question of how fast could they go. Through the first 175 yards, Pietras held a body length lead over Jane, but then had a small hiccup. She inadvertently swallowed water and stopped swimming while she regained her composure. She also touched the bottom of the pool, which is allowed, but when she restarted her swim she pushed forward slightly thus disqualifying herself from the race. In the end, she wasn’t able to catch up to her friend Jane anyway, who’s time of 5:16.99 is fast enough to qualify for the D1 state meet and was just 0.52 seconds away from the Trenton varsity record of 5:16.47 set back in 1993 by Nikki Lorence. Also swimming in the 500, teammates Emma Donovan (6:05.13) and Delilah Yarbrough placed 8th and 15th respectively with their times.

Now let’s take a look at senior co-captain Alexa Francis for a bit. I was one of many that was wondering what Coach Jim DeRupa was thinking when he entered Alexa’s events for the meet. Up to this point in the meet, she hadn’t competed once. Over the course of the final five events, she would swim her allowed four events, starting with the 500 freestyle. Let me be the first to say “well done coach”. The move was a stroke of genius, as Alexa turned in the best four event HS performance of her career. In the 500, she had a season best and her 2nd fastest time ever (5:30.11) to claim the 2nd place medal and a D3 state cut. That was a drop of over 17 seconds from her earlier time this year. In the next event, the 200 free relay, she clocked a 26.79 for her 50 split. I have never seen her post a time that fast. One event later, she was back in the water again, again earning a D3 state cut with her 2nd place finish in the 100 yard backstroke (1:03.88). This is the first time that Alexa has earned a state cut in this event. She then took a breather during the 100 breaststroke, but returned to swim the 2nd leg of the 400 free relay, turning in the 2nd fastest split of her team with a 57.77. Again, I’ve been watching her swim at Trenton HS for four years, and I believe that was also a personal best. All in all, she had an amazing set of swims that I didn’t think was possible given the lineup that she was presented. Great job Alexa, and kudos to Coach DeRupa for the daring lineup decision.

Let’s go back to the 200 free relay, where Alexa teamed up with Rachel Stapleton, Jessalyn Marshall, and Kelly Truitt to turn in a 1:49.90 and a 5th place finish. Trenton’s B relay of Jessica Frank, Grace Mundt, Delilah Yarbrough, and Allison Cullen swam it in 1:59.65, while the C relay of Olivia Menzer, Sydnee Dishneau, Natalie Dobbs, and Tabitha Hutchison finished in 2:01.28. Trenton also had relay teams of Madison Pickett, Gwyneth Hodge, Lauren Barnard, and Lily Adamovich (2:14.07); Cecelia Pattenaude, Lauren Ehnis, Emma Gutierrez, and Samantha Plough (2:24.16); Sophia Castillo, Sophie McKee, Elizabeth Medel, and Alexis Eidt (2:24.61); and Elizabeth Paczewitz, Kamryn Begeman, Ava Berger, and Mary Costello (2:30.80).

In the 100 backstroke, in addition to Alexa’s 2nd place finish, just behind her was Emma McClelland in 3rd with a 1:04.62, while Ava Gajewski’s 1:09.26 was good enough for 11th. By this time in the meet, Trenton had probably earned enough points to win the meet without finishing, but where is the fun in that? You still had the 100 breaststroke and 400 free relay to go.

In the 100 breaststroke, Jessalyn Marshall turned in an outstanding time of 1:13.32, just ahead of Kelly Truitt’s 1:14.38. Both are nearing the 1:12.59 standard for the D3 state meet as they placed 3rd and 4th respectively. Jessalyn did this despite not feeling well, doing her best to swim through the sickness. Olivia Menzer placed 19th with her time of 1:26.68.

To put the capper on a championship team performance, the quartet of Emma McClelland, Alexa Francis, Olivia Livernois, and Jane McClelland easily clinched a 1st place finish and a D3 (and D2) state cut with their time of 3:50.18. Second place Wyandotte was more than eight seconds behind. Jane put the exclamation point on the day, as she turned in a 55.91 split anchoring the relay.

Trenton has now won this meet 30 times in its 39 year history, continuing their mastery of Downriver swimming at the HS level. On the day, they earned five event titles and four second place finishes. Congratulations to the girls and also to coaches DeRupa and Megan Dossey. Go Trojans!

The class of 2020 claims the Downriver Classic trophy – their 4th in 4 years
Teammates and mascots alike cheer on a Trojan swimmer
Divers Samantha Plough (left) and Ava Berger share a moment with the champions trophy