Two is better than one:

Grafton brings homes a couple of Division 2 state titles in swimming and diving, and a pair of sisters swim together for the last time at Waukesha South

GRAFTON HIGH SCHOOL seniors Libby Michel (left) and Maranda Uttke each brought home a gold medal from the Division 2 state swim and dive meet at Waukesha South last Friday. Michel broke her own school record in the 200-yard individual medley and earned a medal in the 500 freestyle by taking third. That makes four state medals after she finished sixth in the 500 freestyle last year and fifth in the 200 individual medley as a sophomore. Uttke broke the Black Hawks’ school record earlier in the season and earned her fourth medal in four years of diving. She was sixth as a freshman and third as a sophomore and junior before going out on top this season. Photo by Mitch Maersch
Mitch Maersch
Ozaukee Press staff

Winning a gold medal at the state meet had been a longtime goal of Grafton High School seniors Libby Michel and Maranda Uttke, and doing it together made last Friday at Waukesha South all the more special.

Michel extended her school record in the 200-yard individual medley, winning the Division 2 title in 2 minutes, 4 seconds — one second off the state record — and one and a half seconds ahead of second-place finisher Izzy Bloom of Edgewood.

Uttke, who already set the school record in diving this season, won the state title with 431.8 points, nearly 17 points ahead of second-place finisher Kiera Wilson of Whitnall.

“With Maranda and I being able to both win that state championship, it was just really special to me and I think we really motivated each other with that goal. Being able to accomplish that together was just amazing to me,” Michel said.

“It was a really, really incredible feeling,  especially for it being my dream since freshman year. And being able to accomplish that with Libby is really incredible for both of us,” Uttke said.

They took different routes to their gold-medal finish.

Michel took the lead right from the start and never let go of it.

“I went out pretty fast, but they did catch up,” she said. “By the time we hit the end, I was almost two seconds ahead of second place.”

First-year coach Jack O’Connor went crazy for the entire race.

“It was amazing. I was screaming my head off the whole time,” he said.

O’Connor said Michel’s butterfly hadn’t looked good in practice — it’s usually one of her strengths — but he knew she was in good shape when she started so well with that stroke in the race.

When she touched the wall in first at the end of the race, “it was an ecstatic feeling,” O’Connor said.

Having that medal put around her neck is a memory Michel won’t forget.

“I was really happy to be up there and see everyone cheering for me. It was a really good environment that night,” she said.

Uttke started slowly before finding her groove on the way to her fourth state medal — this time a gold one after finishing sixth as a freshman and third the next two years.

“She started out consistent, but not quite on the money,” diving coach Dennis Hubert said.

“Being fifth after five dives was not where we wanted to comfortably be, and we knew we had to better. Being third after eight dives was also a little like deja vu, and she definitely did not want to finish in third place again. For the finals, she had harder dives then everyone else. I told her, ‘This is it, go out there and show the judges you are the best, and show them something special.’”

That she did. But Uttke still didn’t know if she won or not.

“I think it was the worst invite of the season, so I was kind of scared,” she said. “But they gave me the first-place medal. I was really surprised.”

So Uttke on an off day was better than everyone else in Division 2.

“That’s incredible,” she said.

Uttke is the most decorated diver in school history and the best Hubert has ever coached at Grafton.

“I have coached all the top divers for Grafton over my 42-year span, and her diving career at Grafton puts her at the top of the list,” he said.

Swimming and diving has been a large part of Michel’s and Uttke’s lives, and they wouldn’t have it any other way. Outside high school, Michel has been with Ozaukee Aquatics for a decade and Uttke has been with the Schroeder Diving Team in Brown Deer for five years.

“It’s meant a lot to me. I think it’s really shaped the swimmer I’ve become, along with club,” Michel said.

“I don’t think I’d be where I am today without swimming for Grafton, which is something that I really enjoy being able to say.”

“Over the years I could just see how progressively better I got each year and I think that’s super cool,” Uttke said.

“It takes up a lot of my time and I really do care about the sport.”

Michel also finished third in the 500 freestyle in 4:57.87. Her friend from her club team, Casey Stephens of Whitefish Bay, was second in 4:56.6. Izzy Enz of Edgewood won in 4:49.97.

“I had a really good time. I dropped some from the week before,” Michel said.’ And I got to swim next to club teammates.”

Sisters swim their final relays together

Michel joined her sister, sophomore Lola, along with senior Halle Grimm and freshman Kylee Grimm in the 200 medley relay and 200 freestyle relay.

Kylee left early on the backstroke in the 200 medley relay, and the team was disqualified, but the Hawks picked her up and told her not to worry about it.

“‘It’s OK. We’re just here to have fun. You have another race. You’ll be fine,’” Halle said she told her sister. “It was kind of like a bonding moment. We were like cheering each other on.”

O’Connor, who was a record-setting swimmer Wheaton College, said he got a heads-up about early starts as a teen.

“My club coach in high school said, ‘I’m never going to be upset with you if you false start. It just shows you’re excited,’” he said.

Kylee bounced back in the 200 freestyle relay. The team finished 13th in 1:43.07, faster than its time at the sectional.

It was the final time the pair of sisters’ swam together in high school.

“Just having one last race with her was really special to me, along with Halle and Kylee Grimm,” Libby Michel said. “Having that sister relay, I think even that concept itself is really cool.”

“I really love being with my friends on the team, especially Halle. I’m going to miss it next year with Halle being gone,” Kylee Grimm said.

“It was fun. It was like our last hurrah,” Lola Michel said. “We were all kind of sad after but we were happy at the same time.”

“It was fun. We all like hype each other up,” Halle Grimm said.

Grimm hits milestone in backstroke

Halle Grimm finished eighth in the 100 backstroke in a personal-record 58.47 seconds. It was less than a second from placing in the top six and earning a medal, but Grimm was happy with her time.

It was the first time she finished in under a minute since sophomore year.

“It was a really cool feeling. I’ve improved so much from last year,” she said.

Just getting to state was a special accomplishment. Grimm had a leg injury that kept her out of the pool for several weeks to start the season.

She has switched between swimming the 100 breaststroke as a freshman and junior and the backstroke as a sophomore, qualifying for state all three times.

The backstroke was less likely to aggravate her injury, O’Connor said, so it was a logical race to have Grimm swim this season.

“I thought it was a really good swim for her, especially having to fight through an injury for five or six weeks of the season,” O’Connor said.

Next up, college athletics

Libby Michel and Halle Grimm are far from done in the pool, and Uttke is considering diving in college.

Michel swam a club race less than 12 hours after the state meet. During the high school season, she practices with the team and gets a couple of hours in two days per week for her club team. In summer, she swims four hours per day four days per week.

“I don’t really get any breaks,” she said. “Sunday’s my rest day.”

Michel was recruited by the University of Cincinnati, a Division 1 program, and signed a letter of intent to attend and join the Bearcats.

One visit to see the school and meet the team and coaches was all it took.

“I like the atmosphere there,” Michel said. “I really connected with the team and coaches, and it just felt right to me.”

She will be the first in her family to attend college. She plans to major in film and media studies. She likes action movies, but said she likes to make films of various genres.

Grimm said Michel is the one who got her into swimming nine years ago through Ozaukee Aquatics.

“We’ve been through everything together,” she said.

Grimm is going to swim at a Division 1 program, as well, at Northern Iowa.

“I really like the campus. The team is amazing. I love the coaches. It’s a super good environment. The training facility is amazing,” she said.

Uttke, who joined diving five years ago after doing gymnastics for eight years, is taking a break.

“I’m just going to take a few weeks before I get into my club diving,” she said.

Uttke may compete in college as well. She doesn’t know where she will attend yet.



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