When Lydia Ely steps onto the starting blocks at Oakland University this weekend, it will be the end of an era in St. Johns Swimming.
The End of an Era
by Lori Ely
It all started 21 years ago when our oldest children, Jacob (8yrs) and Megan (7yrs) started swimming for the Sea Lions who were coached by Kim Brewbaker at the time. That began 2 decades of swim history in our family. We have spent endless hours at “the pool” over the years. Our kids have joked that whenever they smell chlorine, they think of “home”. We have had boys with bald heads and shaved legs and girls with extremely hairy legs all in the name of SJ tradition. Jeff and I as parents have been through 20 High School Conferences, 21 Waverly relays, 6 senior nights and more meets that we could ever remember! All six Ely children have earned their Varsity letter each year they competed for the SJ Redwings.
Jacob was first. He swam mostly the IM and fly for coach Brewbaker, who moved to coaching the HS Jacob’s Freshman year. Jacob was top 16 at conference 3 years and top 8 in the butterfly his senior year. Jacob went on to play baseball in college.
Megan came next. She swam mostly free and fly for Kim. She finished top 16 two years at conference. She graduated early to go to Taiwan and teach English as a second language.
Sarah was next. She started Sea Lions when she was only 4 years old. You were supposed to be 5 years old to tryout for the team, but she had been watching Jacob and Megan for quite a while and on the night of tryouts, she dove in and swam a 25 free without stopping, so they let her on the team. Sarah was a breaststroker from the start. She holds the Sea Lion records
in the 9/10 50 breast and the 11/12 50 breast and 100IM. She was ranked in the top 10 breaststrokers in Michigan’s USA swimming for several years. Sarah was a top 8 finisher in the 200IM and 100 breast all 4 years of HS. She was part of the Medley relay that held the Varsity record for 2 years. She was on the state team her Jr and Sr years. The Medley relay took 14th in the state her Jr year. Sarah served as a captain of the team her Sr. year.
The 3 youngest Ely’s joke among themselves that they pretty much grew up on “the pool deck”. By then mom, Lori Ely who swam when she was younger, had been roped into coaching. After all, it was said “she was there all the time anyway.” The “little ones” as we came to call the 3 of them, would often swim a lap of the pool whenever they wanted and then just go back to playing. There were many people who watched over them, including coaches, swimmers and even janitors, when they would sneak off down the hall to get a snack from their hallway “friends” while mom was coaching.
Rachel was the next Ely to swim. Her freshman class included a group of strong swimmers who came up together through the Sea Lions program.. They would only lose 2 meets during Rachel’s entire HS career. Rachel was a six time conference champ, winning the 50 free and 100 free both her S0 and SR years and winning the 200 free and 500 free her Jr Year. Rachel was named to the Lansing Area Dream Team all 4 years. She was part of the state team all four years. Rachel currently holds pool records as part of the Medley relay and individually in the 50 and 100 free. She also holds the Varsity Records
as part of the Medley, 200 free and 400 free relays and individually in the 50,100
and 500 free. Rachel served as a captain of the team her Sr. Year. She went on to join the rowing team at Indiana University Indianapolis Campus.
William “Zeke” was next in line. He swam mostly free for Kim. He was top 16 at conference 3 times and top 8 five times. in the past, Zeke held the pool record in the 200 free and as part of the 400 free relay. He is currently on the record board
as part of the 200 free relay pool
record team. Zeke was part of the 200 and 400 free relay’s that took 13th and 16th his SO year and 200 and 400 relays that took 13th and 14th his Jr year. He placed 11th at states individually in the 200 free his Sr. year. Zeke served as a captain of the team his Sr.year. He is currently swimming for Saginaw Valley State University
Lydia celebrates her 100 Breastroke Conference Championship ’19
Lydia, the last of the Ely’s is now a senior. She was top 8 at conference 6 times in HS. She is part of the Medley relay that currently holds the pool and Varsity records. She has been a state team member 3 years. The Medley relay and 400 free relays took 14th and 16th at states her freshman year. She took 13th individually in the 200 free her SO year. Unfortunately, Lydia missed her Jr year when she tore her ACL in gym class. However, she showed determination and worked hard to come back and become conference champion in the breaststroke this year. She is headed back to states individually and as part of 2 relay teams. Lydia has served as a captain of the team this year. She plans on swimming in college next year.
We (The Ely Family) have much to be grateful for over the years. Swimming has meant a great deal to us. The kids have formed friendships that have helped them through rough spots as well as creating unforgettable memories! Swimming has helped us learn about hardwork, discipline, time management, teamwork, determination, respect, and how to handle success and learn form failure. To the many coaches, swim families , team mates, timers, officials, computer runners, janitors, fellow athletes and most of all friends, the Ely family bids farewell with grateful hearts.