HOLLAND – In a matter of minutes, Holland West Ottawa senior Khadin Soto’s disappointment of placing second in the breaststroke was replaced by the euphoria of clinching his school’s first MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 swimming & diving championship.
Swimming the anchor leg of the 400-yard freestyle relay, Soto touched the wall a mere six hundredths of a second before Detroit Catholic Central’s anchorman, giving West Ottawa the race win and the overall team title – its first in any division in nearly 50 years.
Soto and his relay teammates Jamahl Hogan, Sam Smith and Derek Maas turned in a time of 3:05.84, edging the Catholic Central team of Matthew Kozma, Bennett Loniewski, Mario McDonald and Conor Brownell. The win proved to be the difference maker as the meet came down to the final race with West Ottawa totaling 248 points to edge Detroit Catholic Central’s 240.
“I knew the meet was within a few points, and I knew we had to win that race,” said Soto. “I knew I had to beat the guy next to me and I knew he was really fast. Since I didn’t win the 100 breaststroke like I thought I would, I just kept telling myself that I can’t get caught up in everything else. I just need to do what my teammates need me to do. Just swim like we have been all year. For the last lap I was telling myself I can’t be the one that loses it for everyone.”
That determination paid off as Soto’s finishing kick was enough to give the Panthers the win and wash away Soto’s disappointment.
“I was just super excited,” Soto said. “Before I looked up at the board, I kind of had this feeling that we won. Then just seeing it, I was overwhelmed with emotions. It was like the perfect ending.”
Soto had little time to prepare for his crucial swim as he placed second in the breaststroke, which took place before the 400-yard relay.
“Khadin was coming out of the breaststroke, so he was coming right off of a swim,” said West Ottawa coach Steve Bowyer. “We were hoping to give him a little bit of a lead. He didn’t have much of a lead, but he battled back there at the end.”
West Ottawa had finished second in 2018, as it just missed its first Finals title since winning three straight in Class B-C-D from 1969-71. Detroit Catholic Central was swimming for its first Finals championship in this sport and came on strong down the stretch.
“Detroit Catholic Central had an unbelievable meet,” Bowyer said. “They fought really hard today. We had about 14 points on them after prelims. They came back and fought hard today and brought it right down to the last relay. They don’t get any closer than six hundredths of a second. We feel very fortunate to be on the winning end of that relay.”
Soto is part of a memorable senior class that fueled the Panthers’ drive to the title. Derek Maas is the headliner of West Ottawa’s senior class. Along with swimming a leg of the 400 relay and the winning 200 medley relay, Maas also captured a pair of individual titles. Heading to the University of Alabama next season, Maas won the 200 IM and the butterfly. Having talented teammates to train with has been a key to his success.
“It all starts at our practices,” Maas said. “I always have my teammates with me. It’s way easier to train hard with guys around you that are pushing you. It’s awesome to go out like this as a senior, especially with how the season has gone with the team. Winning the state team title was the ultimate goal.”
Maas teamed up with Soto, junior Gavin Temple and his younger brother, freshman Kevin Maas, to win the 200 medley relay. A versatile swimmer whose main event at the college level will be the 200 breaststroke, Maas won the Division 2 title in the 100 backstroke last year.
“Being a versatile swimmer has helped me,” Maas said. “I have three of the four strokes down pretty good.”
Maas was not the lone dual winner at the Finals as Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central senior Henry Schutte capped his high school career by winning both the 50 and 100 freestyles.
Schutte, who is headed to the University of Virginia to continue his career, won the 50 in 20.46 and captured the 100 in 44.82 seconds.
Schutte closed out his prep career as a six-time Finals champion. Schutte won the 50 and 100 freestyles as both a sophomore and junior. He credited his fellow competitors from around the state for helping him achieve success during his high school career.
“It’s been a blast,” Schutte said. “The past three or four years it’s been awesome to be a part of such a great group of athletes. My competitors have everything to do with that. We push ourselves to be the best, and it’s such a great atmosphere. I love it.”
Howell junior Hunter Gubeno also finished the day as a dual winner, winning the 200 freestyle in 1:39.63 and capturing the 500 freestyle in 4:31.39.
Ann Arbor Skyline senior diver William Henry Schirmer closed out his career as a three-time champion. Schirmer won this time by almost 100 points as he totaled 514.55.
Schirmer, who will dive at Northwestern University, said he felt little pressure in going for the three-peat this season.
“I came in wanting to have a lot of fun with it,” Schirmer said. “It’s my senior year, and I just relaxed and focused on doing what I know I can do. I wanted to stay consistent and have fun with it. It’s my last time being at the state meet, and it’s a great feeling being here with my teammates.”
A pair of seniors closed out their careers by capturing individual state titles. Birmingham Brother Rice senior Liam McDonnell won the 100-backstroke in a time of 50.19. Northville senior Travis Nitkiewicz won the 100-breaststroke in a time of 55.27.
In the 200-freestyle relay, the Harrison-Farmington team of Tristan Strasberger, Trevor Jones, Jared Visser and Brody Jamieson took first place in a time of 1:25.24.
PHOTOS: (Top) Holland West Ottawa’s Derek Maas was part of four championships Saturday, two individually and as part of two relays. (Middle) Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central’s Henry Schutte launches from the blocks on the way to winning the 50-yard freestyle. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
MARQUETTE – Marquette has won so many Upper Peninsula Boys Swimming & Diving Finals team championships, it’s running out of wall space to celebrate them as the boys list already runs from the high ceiling to just about pool level.
They added one more Saturday, their fifth straight title and 31st in school history, and did so in dominating fashion finishing ahead of runner-up Houghton 319-214. The day saw a Marquette sweep as the girls team also breezed to a U.P. championship with its list of championships running just about as far down the same wall.
“Last year, we graduated some real studs,” Marquette coach Nathan McFarren said. “If you would have told me that both teams would be here winning it today last year at this time, I would have said you’re crazy. But our boys that were B and C swimmers were ready to shine. They wanted their moment, and they got it today.”
Marquette junior Trevor Crandell won the 50-yard freestyle, finished runner-up in the 100 butterfly and helped Marquette to wins in the 200 medley relay and 400 free relay.
“It’s so rewarding,” Crandell said. “When you’re first starting the year, it’s so demotivating, you’re not swimming any meets, you’re not doing any good times. But when you get to the U.P. Finals, you’re on that taper, you’re on that block, you’re just ready to go, it’s something special.”
“Super-quiet kid, but this year found the eye of the tiger and really went after it,” McFarren said of Crandell. “So exciting to watch. He wanted it so bad this year, proud of him.”
Junior Isaiah Youngren picked up Marquette’s other individual race win, in the 100 breaststroke. Junior Chase Thomsen was the top diver with a score of 198.15.
Manistique’s Nathan Schoenow won the 100 and 200 freestyle races.
The senior had been sick in his other U.P. Finals appearances.
“It feels good; a lot of hard work in the pool and out of the pool came into this,” he said.
He looked to sprint through both races, including the 200.
“Earlier this season, I didn’t have a whole lot of endurance,” Schoenow said. “I tried to pace myself, maybe hold back a little. But for this meet, since it’s my last time ever doing the 200, I just decided to sprint the whole thing and see how that would work. It hurt a lot, I was really tired after, but it worked – I got my best time by 3.5 seconds.
“The other one (100), same thing, I tried to sprint as hard as I could and the second I felt tired, I would just try to will myself to go faster.”
Other individual winners included Kingsford’s Joey Lundholm in the 200 individual medley and 100 fly, Rudyard’s Keith McDowell in the 500 free and Houghton’s Beau Haataja in the 100 backstroke.
Gladstone was third in the team standings with Kingsford fourth, Ishpeming/Negaunee fifth, Sault Ste. Marie sixth, Rudyard seventh, Manistique eighth and Ishpeming Westwood ninth.
McFarren made it a combined 17 Finals championships as coach for boys and girls for Marquette, tying Marquette’s Matt Williams for the meet record.
PHOTOS (Top) Marquette’s Trevor Crandell celebrates his victory in the 50-yard freestyle Saturday. (Middle) Swimmers launch at the start of the 50 championship race. (Below) Kingsford’s Joey Lundholm swims to a win in the 200 individual medley. (Click for more from Jarvinen Photos.)