Bayer's Awe-Inspiring Diving Record Paces East Grand Rapids Repeat

By Steve Vedder
Special for

March 12, 2022

GRAND RAPIDS – Charley Bayer knew he had at least broken a pair of much-wanted records, but the real shock came after he climbed out of the pool following his last dive.

With one dive to go at Saturday's Lower Peninsula Division 3 Finals, the East Grand Rapids senior knew he had already broken the Calvin University pool and LPD3 Finals records. But that didn't compare with smashing Michigan's all-class/division Finals record with his final dive. The result concluded a dynamic, once-in-lifetime performance with a score of 590.85.

The mark broke former Ann Arbor native, University of Michigan All-American and Olympic silver medalist Bruce Kimball's previous mark of 584.75 set 41 years ago. Bayer's previous best was a 555 at this season's Division 3 Invite.

"It wasn't on my radar," Bayer said of the new mark. "I was going for the Calvin and D3 records. "It was the most put-together, most consistent diving ever for me. I can look back and things couldn't have been better. I feel real good about it."

Bayer, who will dive for South Carolina next season, admitted he could find little room for things he could have improved upon. He had scored a 399.45 in Friday's first day of diving.

"There is no such thing as perfect," he said. "But I'm so happy with this. I did as well as I could."

The performance helped East Grand Rapids successfully repeat as champion. The Pioneers, who feature a roster of barely a dozen swimmers, finished with 272 points to outdistance a heavily west-wide showing. Holland Christian finished runner-up with 214 points, Spring Lake was third with 191 and Grand Rapids Christian fourth with 187 points. Five of the top seven finishers were from the state's west side.

Like many of the meet's coaches, EGR diving coach Tylor Fick said he was left in awe of Bayer's performance.

"I've never seen a high school diver, or coached against, someone with that talent," he said. "What he did this weekend was incredible. He is a mix of talent and hard work and dedication. Overall, he's just a great, humble young man."

East Grand Rapids divingThe state title was the 11th boys crown to go along with 25 girls Finals championships for coach Butch Briggs. It was the seventh time Briggs' boys and girls teams have won championships in the same school year. In all, EGR has won 51 boys and girls state Class B-C-D or Division 3 titles.

"It's the same old story but with different kids," said Briggs, who began coaching swimmers when he was 20 and is now 73. "Every team is very unique, and this team was a challenge to coach and they came through. It's a group of individuals and it took our captains a whole lot to get them together as a team."

Bayer's stunning showing aside, the Pioneers managed one other first when Carter Kegle won the 500-yard freestyle (4:34.68).

Two swimmers won two events each, including Andrew Dobrzanski of Milan who captured the 200 free (1:41.66) and 100 breaststroke (54.45), the latter breaking the LPD3 Finals record. Dobrzanski said the title came after struggling with back problems early in the season, a tired shoulder midway through the winter and missing a week and a half with other ailments in February. Still, Dobrzanski, who said he never felt completely healthy until a couple weeks ago, thought he would be in the hunt for a crown.

"I knew I had a chance just because of how I am and having the experience of being here before," he said. "It was more satisfying because of what I went through. But I thought it could be a little difficult."

The other double winner was Tyler Ray of Pinckney who won the 100 backstroke (50.05) and the 100 butterfly (47.39).

"I think there was more riding on the fly because that's my best event," he said. "In the backstroke I was just focused on getting to the wall."

One of the meet's winners, Charles Brown of Spring Lake, found himself basking in a moment of revenge in winning the 50 free (20.32). He was runner-up at the wire in that event a year ago. He promised himself it wouldn't happen two years in a row.

"I just got touched out last year, so I just put more work into it this year," said Brown, who was also on the winning 200 medley relay team (1:36.11). "That motivated me a lot; I wasn't going to lose by a point again."

The meet's other individual winners were Erik Bolang of Pinckney in the 200 individual medley (1:52.82) and Ben Sytsma of Grand Rapids Christian in the 100 free (45.63). Grand Rapids Christian also won the 400 free (3:08.73) and 200 free (1:26.04) relays.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) The East Grand Rapids boys swimming & diving team shows its latest Finals championship trophy. (Middle) The Pioneers’ Charley Bayer gets high off the board during one of his dives. (Click for more from

Picking Up Seconds All Over, Cranbrook Picks Up Points to Climb Podium

By Jason Schmitt
Special for

March 11, 2023

ROCHESTER — Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood edged top-seeded East Grand Rapids by one hundredth of a second Saturday in the 200-yard medley relay at the Lower Peninsula Division 3 Finals at Oakland University.

The Cranes celebrated their victory in the meet’s first event like they had just won the state championship. Little did everyone in attendance know that when all was said and done, that razor-thin margin would in fact be the difference, as Cranbrook captured its first Finals title since 2017. The Cranes totaled 271 team points, beating out the two-time reigning champion Pioneers (259) by 12 points. 

“I’m one of those coaches, I score out the psych sheet, I score out the entries and EGR was 11 points up on us coming into today,” Cranbrook head coach Paul Ellis said. “(Winning) that first relay, that was a 12-point swing. That got the snowball rolling, and we continued to feed off that and go fast.”

Freshman A.J. Farner, senior Ethan Schwab and sophomores Sean Lu and Joe Wiater got the win for Ellis’s team. Schwab and Wiater swam the top splits in their legs, with Wiater rallying his team to victory in the final freestyle leg.

“That win by one one-hundredth really set the tone for the meet,” Schwab said. “It was great to come out with my team and have fun in the first relay and then bring the energy into the next event.”

Adrian’s London Rising celebrates his victory in the 200 freestyle. Schwab brought the energy to all four of his swims at the Finals. The Michigan-bound Schwab won three of the races he entered and set LP Division 3 Finals records in both the 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke this weekend. His time of 1:48.23 in Saturday’s IM beat the record he set just a day earlier in the prelims. He then finished with a 54.31 in the 100 breaststroke, beating out Wayland’s Zachery Jenison by more than two seconds but falling just short of his record-setting time of 54.04, set in Friday’s preliminary round.

Schwab was named Swimmer of the Meet by the Michigan Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association for his efforts, which also included a runner-up finish as part of the 400 freestyle relay.

Cranbrook’s 200 freestyle relay team of sophomore Robbie Sarle, senior Christos Tzoumakas, Wiater and junior Will Farner beat out top-seeded and 2022 event champion Grand Rapids Christian for the win. It was one of four victories for the Cranes.

“It was just a phenomenal team effort from top to bottom,” Ellis said. “Everyone did their part. Everyone nickel and dimed their way into the top 16 and nickel and dimed their way by moving up a little bit in each final swim that we had.

“We had huge swims from Will Farner, A.J. Farner and Sean Lu. Joe Wiater was injured last year. He came back and was consolation in the 50 and top eight in the breaststroke. It was a whole bunch of guys from all different classes that did it for us. I’m thrilled with everything they did.”

East Grand Rapids, which came in having won the Division 3 title in both 2021 and 2022, actually took slim leads over Cranbrook after eight events and again after 10. Junior Carter Kegle won the 500 freestyle for the second-straight year, beating out Plainwell freshman Sam Harper by five seconds. The win helped his team take a 10-point lead over Cranbrook. Kegle would finish second in the 200 freestyle and helped his Pioneers win the 400 freestyle relay to end the day. Junior Micah Spitzley and seniors Ted Turnage and Logan McCahill joined Kegle on the winning relay.

“We swam great. We broke three or four school records, and we were in the hunt,” East Grand Rapids head coach Milton Briggs said. “Give credit to Cranbrook. They beat us in that (medley) relay and they won the 200 free relay, which they weren’t supposed to. They had a great second day. They swam out of their minds. They’re a very, very good team.”

Chelsea’s Mitch Brown completes a dive on the way to claiming the title in that event. Grand Rapids Christian junior Ben Sytsma won the 50 freestyle and finished runner-up in the 100 freestyle. He won the 50 in a time of 20.57 seconds, edging Manistee junior Alec Lampen by three tenths of a second. 

Lampen rebounded to win the 100 backstroke in a time of 50.30 seconds. 

Chelsea’s Mitch Brown rolled to victory in the 1-meter diving competition. The junior scored 522.25, outdistancing second-place Gryffin Porter of Haslett (428.75). DeWitt freshman Carson Reynolds was third with 419.65 points.

Fremont senior Matheus Garcia won the 100 freestyle, touching the wall in a time of 44.75 seconds. He beat out Sytsma (44.96) and McCahill (45.20).

The state saw a glimpse of the future, as a pair of freshmen walked away with championships. Otsego’s Liam Smith won the 100 butterfly, and Adrian’s London Rising was tops in the 200 freestyle. Smith entered the weekend with the top-seeded time but was second after Friday’s preliminaries to Holland senior James Baer.

“I always put pressure on myself,” said Smith, who won the final with a time of 49.74. “I came in as the 1-seed so I felt like I had to finish as the 1-seed. But at the same time, I have three more years to come in and do it all over again. It feels awesome.”

Rising, who was second to Kegle after the prelims, said he was stressing out heading into the prelims and all night Friday. 

“All night, I was just visualizing my race,” said Rising, who also finished third in the 100 butterfly. “When I came back, I was more nervous than excited but after I won, it was a big weight lifted off my shoulders. Today, I just focused on myself and didn’t underestimate anybody. I thought it was going to be a good race, and it was.”

Holland Christian finished third with 161 points, and Adrian (135) and Grand Rapids Christian (110) rounded out the top five.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS Cranbrook Kingswood’s Ethan Schwab launches into one of his races Saturday at Oakland University. (Middle) Adrian’s London Rising celebrates his victory in the 200 freestyle. (Below) Chelsea’s Mitch Brown completes a dive on the way to claiming the title in that event. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)