FARMINGTON HILLS — It was five lanes of chaos, or so it appeared.
Pounding the water with the breaststroke, the backstroke and everything in between, the girls jetted to one end of the pool and back.
Off to the side stood Shannon Dunworth, yelling out instructions, encouragement or a time to beat.
“When you look at everything, and you consider the times and the training and the attitude, I like a lot about this team,” Dunworth, the Farmington Hills Mercy swim coach, said of his 2013 squad. “After the first five or six weeks of the season, when we put in so much work, I think we’re now starting to see what they are capable of.”
Just two days after beating Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood and a week or so after claiming their ninth consecutive Oakland County title, the Marlins were back to work while aiming at a much bigger prize.
“Our goal is to always be the best team we can be. If they are valiant and they pour everything they have into being that kind of team, I’m going to be a happy coach either way,” Dunworth said. “Of course, that state title is something we want.”
The final part of that statement seemed to be the least important as the long-time coach spoke.
State championships have come plenty to Mercy — five since 2007 — but the greater challenge, Dunworth explained, is getting each swimmer to the absolute top of her game in any and every event possible.
“Winning and losing can’t always be the focus, especially right now,” Dunworth said. “Trust me, for us, we are measuring our girls based on what they do in practice. We’re competing with the clock, and that’s how we hold them accountable.”
“Every day is a chance to work on our sets, our intensity and our times,” junior Roxy Griffore said. “We all want to win states, but you can’t worry about it until you qualify. It’s all about our times right now. That’s what we are focused on.”
After three runner-up finishes in Division 1 from 2002-05, Mercy dominated Division 2 for years, before bouncing back to D-1 in 2011 and claiming a state title.
The Marlins placed second at the state final last year.
“But last year has to be last year,” junior Kathleen McGee said. “This is a new team and a new season, and that’s how we have to approach this. We take a lot of pride in what’s happened with this program, but our focus has to be on what’s next. … We believe we’re good enough to win a state title this year, but all we can control is how hard we work and how much we prepare ourselves.”
So far, so good.
Mercy had competed in two invites at press time and won both.
The girls did likewise in all six dual meets on the season.
The swimming coaches association also has the squad ranked No. 1 in its latest Division 1 poll.
“We haven’t looked at a ton of teams yet to know exactly what we’re going to be going against,” Dunworth said of the state final. “You have teams like Saline (High) and Rockford (High) that are great that will be there. Do I think this team can win it all? Sure. We always feel that way. But like I said, if we are at the top of our game and give it everything we have, I’m going to be happy. I was more than happy with last year’s team.”
At press time, 13 individuals and three relay teams had qualified for the finals, which are set for Nov. 22-23 at Oakland University.
“When the time comes, we’ll give it our best shot to win it all,” McGee said. “Everyone here wants to be part of something like that.”