1993. 1994. 1996. 1998. 2003. 2004. 2005.
The years emblazoned on the state championship banners in the gym tick off quite nicely, missing a year here and there but for the most part maintaining a steady rhythm of victory, in harmony with the green ‘state champs’ flag that flies constantly over the building.
2007. 2008. 2009. 2010. 2011. 2012. 2014.
Observing this comfortable cadence, it’s easy to forget that the regular hum of state championships was preceded by a long silence at the beginning of FHC’s history, a 35-year period where not a single team from FHC managed to win a state championship. That long stretch of silence, which began when the school was founded in 1958, was finally interrupted in 1993 by the girls’ swim and dive team, a group of 36 athletes who won the school’s first-ever state championship and opened the doors for FHC’s now-regular flow of state titles.
“Winning FHC’s first state championship is remarkable,” said Tim Jasperse, head coach of the 1993 team who still coaches the girls’ swim team today. “It was long overdue. Many other teams were close; we just happen to be the first.”
On September 12th, the team will be inducted into the new Athletic Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame will highlight several other accomplished individuals who competed or coached at FHC. The 1993 girls’ swim and dive team is the only complete team that has been selected to receive the honor.
“I think it is exciting that FHC is creating a hall of fame to showcase the fantastic talent that has come through there,” said Amy Fritsch Sprik, a sophomore swimmer at the time who was part of the 200 meter freestyle relay which took first at the state meet that year. “Our team is very proud to be a part of the hall of fame and are especially honored to be inducted in the first group.”
The 1993 season was “a season of firsts,” according to Jasperse. First-ever wins against East Grand Rapids and Zeeland, first win at the West Michigan Relays meet, first conference championship: while Jasperse may have suspected that the team had the opportunity to do big things that year, assistant coach Clare Emaus said that “he kept it to himself.” Instead, Jasperse allowed the team’s results to speak for themselves.
“FHC was flying under the radar because the east side of the state [and the] Ann Arbor area was where the dominating swim schools were located,” Emaus said. “As the season progressed, especially after the [first-ever] win against EGR, the team slowly started to read [newspaper] and … internet articles about them. Tim [Jasperse] continued to keep it low key, thus allowing the athletes to have fun and gain team confidence after each win.”
This humble yet focused approach worked well for many athletes, including Sprik, who credits the coaching staff with much of the team’s success.
“Personally, I was the type of athlete that could get shaken by overthinking, so I tried to stay oblivious,” Frik said. “However, throughout the season, when we started winning some big meets, then I think we all started to realize we had something special going on. Specifically, we won a dual meet against Ann Arbor Pioneer, who was a continual powerhouse, and that was a point in the season when it became apparent that we were pretty good. It was fun and exciting, but I give a lot of credit to the coaching staff who kept us in the present and focusing on making improvements each day.”
Coaches and athletes agree, however, that it was the hard work put in by the swimmers themselves which ultimately resulted in the state title.
“I don’t know when the team realized we could win the state meet, but what the team had was a lot of athletes who detested to lose. We had many naturally super competitive athletes,” Jasperse said. “Practices were competitive because of the makeup of the group; they competed every day in practice.”
Long hours spent in the pool and the dedication displayed by the athletes created a supportive team dynamic and knit the individuals together into a very close group which both Frik and Emaus describe as “a family.”
“I think [the team atmosphere] is what set our team apart from other teams,” Frik reflected. “It didn’t matter what lane you swam in or how many points you scored, every person played a role. We really had a fun and supportive team dynamic. We liked to laugh together, so that made going to practice and working so hard something to look forward to. Every individual had success stories that year, and those were definitely celebrated, but our individual goals were not as important as the team goals. I know I was pushed by wanting to do my best for the group, and I think we all felt the same way.”
The team’s bond remains strong to this day, as do their memories from that exciting season.
“Personally, I am thankful because [being inducted into the Hall of Fame] has allowed me to reconnect with my teammates after all these years,” Frik said.
She fondly recalls time spent with these teammates during that breakthrough year. Close friendships were formed through daily car rides to practice at the Aquatics Center, an exuberant cheering circle in the water before meets, dancing in order to get “psyched” for races, and, most importantly, lining the pool deck during races, “screaming and cheering for the people in the water” all the way through the season to the state meet, when the team’s hard work and support for one another proved to be the strongest in all of Michigan.
“I remember the team just jumping and screaming after the last relay finished [at the state meet],” Frik said. “Everyone was hugging, some were laughing and some were crying. It was cool to see all that hard work pay off.”
It is only fitting that the team now enters the Athletic Hall of Fame together, to be remembered by the FHC community as the close, strong family that they were that season.
“The most important factor [in our success] was the atmosphere cultivated by our coaches and captains that we worked as a team, grew as a team, and won or lost as a team. It really made you feel a part of something bigger. You weren’t just swimming for yourself, you had a whole group of girls, who you loved, counting on you,” Frik said. “Whether you were in the water or cheering on the side, you felt a part of it because you were an important part of it.”