Lamphere swimming and diving battling for more titles

By: Mark Vest | Madison - Park News | Published October 10, 2017

Madison Heights Lamphere’s girls swimming and diving program knows something about winning championships.

In 2014 and 2015, the Rams won Macomb Area Conference Silver Division dual and division meet titles. During the course of those two seasons, Lamphere went 9-0 in the Silver and 14-4 overall.

The Rams then moved up to the Gold last season, finishing 1-4 in the division and 2-8 overall.

This time around, Lamphere was 1-2 in the Gold and 4-3 overall, at press time.

“We’re at a new beginning to our team,” said Lamphere coach Diane Sage. “We lost about half of our team last year and brought up some really good up-and-coming freshmen that are making leaps and bounds. … I think we’re in a rebuild year.”

After having previously won back-to-back MAC Silver championships, Sage acknowledged that last season was a tough one.

But despite those struggles, the move to the Gold could help lead the program to even bigger and better things going forward.

“Every time you move up a division, you get different schools and you get harder competition,” Sage said. “I think this year’s (going to) be a steppingstone for making them champions again. … Hopefully, we’ll be able to move up another division down the road.”

After having already gone through a full season in the Gold, Lamphere has a better idea of the kind of opponents it’s up against.

“We know the competition,” said Alexis Alford, who along with Pearl Fonbuena and Katelyn Pemberton is a senior captain. “We know that they’re fast and that we need to train like they do, in a sense. Last year, coming from Silver, the Gold was a big change. Now we know what we need to do.”

Sage said there are 19 girls in the program this season. But perhaps the best news of all is that a combination of 54 boys and girls came out for a swim program that was started at Page Middle School last year.

The coach hopes getting that kind of interest at the middle school level will have a big impact on the program in upcoming years.

“When I started four years ago, there wasn’t anything like that to make the team great,” Sage said. “But now we have a feeder program. … We started it in sixth, seventh and eighth grade. This is the first year that we’ve gotten kids from that program. I’m looking forward to having kids that know how to swim, versus having to teach them for the first month how to swim.”

Fonbuena was one of those swimmers who learned how to swim under Sage and has now blossomed into a team leader.

“I have water anxiety, but I’m trying to overcome that,” Fonbuena said. “(Sage) was really nice about it.”

As for the current team, Sage said it’s a tight-knit group.

“We’ve managed to make the pool home again, which is good. The girls feel comfortable there, and they have a place that they can go and be with their friends and still have the personal time to make themselves better in the sport,” the coach said. “It’s a great group of girls. They work well together. They’re very energetic in supporting their teammates.”