Top 16 list reaches start of elite eight | Sports coverage for Fenton, Linden, Holly and Lake

We are at the Elite Eight.

Finishing anywhere in the Tri-County Top 16 for any school year is a great achievement for any program, but let’s be real. While the bottom half are strong teams, there’s always a reason why they aren’t in the top half.

The caliber of the team certainly goes up a notch when we get to the last eight, and this season is no exception. Well, let’s stop talking about them and move on to the next three teams that will make up our poll for the 2021-22 school year.

No. 8 – Fenton Softball: The Tigers were perhaps our toughest team to rank in this poll, and for much of the season they looked like a good team that was going to fall short of expectations.

However, despite starting 4-7 and changing coaches mid-season, the Tigers found a way to turn the tide and make it quite a memorable season. After their troubling start, the Tigers found themselves in the middle of the Flint Metro League Stripes Division championship race and finished 15-5, but that only earned them third place in the division pursuit. However, the Tigers eliminated the Bronchos’ chance of winning at least a co-divisional title, sweeping them near the end of the season.

But as the season progressed, the Tigers became a different team. The sweep against the Bronchos in mid-May was their sixth and seventh straight wins. And the team finished the regular season, with a 12-1 streak entering the D1 State Tournament Series. Once there, the Tigers pressed hard on the accelerator pedal. They beat Swartz Creek 16-1 and Flushing 10-0 to win a district title.

The following week, the Tigers had two tough challenges against Midland and Grand Blanc in regional play, but overcame both to win a regional championship as well. The Tigers cruised to a 4-2 win over Midland and then claimed the crown at the Big White, beating the Bobcats 2-1.

But that’s where the magic race ended. The Tigers finished the season with an overall record of 26-15. Arguably, that position might be a little too high, but (rightly or wrongly) the top 16 in polls usually emphasize playoff success, and this team got it, to the point to place them in the final eight state teams. It is very impressive.

#7 – Linden Girls’ Golf: If athletic staff had taken these polls before the 2008-09 school year, the Linden girls’ golf team would be on many of our year-end lists. From the 2001-02 to 2008-09 school year, the Eagles won all but one Metro League crown. And for many of those seasons, the Eagles have traveled to meet the state.

However, since then the Eagles have not been at that level, generally finishing below area rivals Fenton, who had spent several years in that poll. That changed last fall. The Eagles had a strong senior class that knew it was their time to shine, and they made sure they did. The Eagles started the season losing an 187-188 duel to Goodrich, but what the duel showed them was that they had the talent to compete for a league crown.

They proved it a week later by beating Fenton 165-179, then finished the double game of the season in a three-way tie with Fenton and Goodrich at 10-1. This meant that the league fixture would decide the league champion. The Eagles won the league encounter with a team score of 348, earning them the crown by six strokes over Goodrich. The Eagles won their first league title in 13 years.

The Eagles were already a proud herd after that league crown, but they followed it with a regional score of 364, earning them third place and a berth in the D2 State Meet. Once there, the Eagles clinched a ninth-place finish, recording a team score of 360-374-734 over two days. It was a solid end to a very solid season.

No. 6 – Fenton Boys Swimming and Diving: Welcome to the Elite Eight, swimming Fenton guys! The team was in the top 16 for each of the previous nine seasons, but never made it to the top half, peaking at No. 9, twice. This season, the Tigers have made the jump to the top half.

Although they don’t have a huge number of swimmers on the roster, the Tigers had one of their best seasons. They reached a double-game record of 6-0 in Metro action, scoring at least 109 points in each duel. The closest duel was a 118-57 victory against La Coruña.

At the Metro Meet, the Tigers took first place with 484 team points, 153 points ahead of second-placed Coruna. This gave the Tigers their 11th straight Flint Metro League title.

But what usually keeps the Tigers from straying too far in our polls is their state performance. While winning championship titles is nice, the Metro isn’t much of a swimming power conference, so the state trip is the defining moment for the Tigers’ standings. This season, they finished ninth with a team score of 82 points, establishing themselves as one of the top boys’ division 2 teams swimming in Michigan State. Again, welcome to the top half, Fenton.

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