Cranes Continue D3 Dominance in 3-Peat

March 12, 2016

By Dan Stickradt
Special for Second Half

YPSILANTI — Located in talent-rich and depth-laden Oakland County, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood often has to depart the county’s borders to claim championships in boys swimming and diving.

Found lurking in the shadows of Division 1 and Division 2 state powerhouses such as Birmingham Brother Rice and Birmingham Seaholm, plus a host of other highly-regarded programs nearby, the Cranes have found state-meet success in Division 3.

Tons of success.

Cranbrook Kingswood added its long list of MHSAA titles Saturday inside the confines of Eastern Michigan University’s Jones Natatorium. The Cranes out-dueled East Grand Rapids to finish on top with 352 points and earn their third straight Lower Peninsula Division 3 championship.

“Swimming in Oakland County — we don’t win the county meet. But once we leave the county, we realize that we can swim with anybody in (Division 3),” offered Cranbrook Kingswood coach Karl Hodgson. “There are so many good teams there (in the county). It really does help prepare you for the state meet.” 

On the strength of eight victories, East Grand Rapids finished second with 315 points. Chelsea, last year’s runner-up, swam third (195), while Holland Christian (188), Hamilton (127), Grand Rapids Christian (122), Otsego (118), Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (115), Detroit Country Day (107) and Milan (88) rounded out the top 10 in the team scoring.

A total of 32 schools reached the scoring column. 

Cranbrook Kingswood landed finishers in 27 of the 192 total slots over the 12 events, including four top-16 placers in both the 100-yard breaststroke and 500 freestyle, which helped the Cranes take a lead they would not relinquish.

“I knew (depth) would be our only shot,” Hodgson admitted. “I knew EGR had the studs, and they sure proved that today, didn’t they? I tip my hat to them and their coach. They did a great job with (winning eight events). That’s what it came down to. But so did we. We swam so great (Friday) to put us in position. Really out of our minds. To duplicate it, I knew it would be tough. But the guys sucked it up and got it done.”

Cranbrook only won a single event, as senior Giorgio DelGrasso touched first in the 100 breaststroke in an LP Division 3 meet record time of 55.92. Cranbrook won in a landslide last season (430-299.5 over Chelsea), but had stiffer challenges this year, much like 2014 when the Cranes edged Chelsea (297-273.33)

“It feels really good, especially my senior year and (the fact) that it was my last high school race,” said DelGrasso. “But this is not about me. This is about my coaches and my teammates.” 

“We knew it was going to be a good race because Christian Bart is a heck of a swimmer,” smiled Hodgson, who was dumped into the pool in celebration moments earlier. “But Giorgio wanted to break 56 (seconds) all year, and it was his last shot. He came through. That was good; we needed that hit. You could see the breaststroke was a big event for us; we had four guys there in the top eight. That was a big plus for us.” 

East Grand Rapids won eight of the 12 events, including four of the first five in opening up a 125-122 lead.

The Pioneers have won more 100 MHSAA team titles across all sports, with more than 50 runner-up finishes going back to the 1920s — making East Grand Rapids one of the most storied high schools in MHSAA lore in terms of overall postseason success. But this time, a disqualification hurt the Pioneers’ chances. 

“We swam great overall today in the finals,” said veteran East Grand Rapids coach Butch Briggs. “We had a lot of wins. But what I am really proud of is the way we bounced back. We were resilient. We were disqualified Friday in the 200 medley relay and lost those points. That was the first event. But we didn’t let it get to us. Instead, we came back and swam great in the finals.”

Andy MacGregor of East Grand Rapids defended his title in the 200 freestyle, breaking the 1:40-barrier with a 1:39.79 effort. MacGregor later added a win in the 100 freestyle (45.70). 

“I didn’t put too much pressure on myself,” said MacGregor. “I went 1:40 in the prelims (of the 200 free) and I wanted to shave a few one-hundredths (of a second) and get down in the 1:39s. I wanted to swim faster on the final day and was able to accomplish that.”

Sophomore Christian Bart placed in four events (two individual and as part of two relays), including a win in the 200 individual medley (1:50.61).

“I think, being a sophomore, this is a great accomplishment for me. I didn’t expect it,” said Bart, who was a part of the Pioneers team last season that finished third. “Our goal was to have our best meet, go out there and swim the best we can. We were better than last year. We were third last year and second this year. We hope to contend next (season).”

Bart, Hein, MacGregor and Cade Vruggink teamed up for a win in the 200 freestyle relay (1:23.02), setting another meet record.

“We stacked this relay with our fastest swimmers,” smiled Hein. “We really wanted to win that event.”

In the final event, Vruggink, Christopher Steers, Joe Murphy and MacGregor joined forces for a 3:10.40 effort in the 400 freestyle relay for the Pioneers’ eighth win of the day.

Hein, a senior, out-sprinted a tight group to win the 50 freestyle (20.81) and came back to upend defending champion Alec Nyboer of Hamilton to win the 100 butterfly (49.18). Nyboer finished second in 49.24. 

“I knew it would be close,” said Hein. “I really had to push. It feels great beating (the reigning champ).” 

EGR’s Grant Williams continued his school’s trend by winning the one-meter diving competition with 443.45 points.

Chelsea, second as a team a year ago, pulled the first upset of the day. The Bulldogs stunned top-seeded Cranbrook in the 200 medley relay, as anchor Joey Manger used a strong kick to help his unit prevail with a 1:34.56 clocking. 

Kurt Jolly, Zach Lee and Lee Argir joined Mangner on the medals stand. Cranbrook was second in 1:34.69.

“I knew that Joey Mangner is one of the best sprinters in the state and that he would catch him,” said Zach Lee. “We all did our part, and Joey finished it.” 

Holland Christian sophomore Skyler Cook-Weeks finished second in the 500 freestyle as a freshman and overpowered the pack this year to post a 4:31.48 effort, also a meet record.

“Last year I was second, so this year I really wanted to come here and win,” said Cook-Weeks. “I got down to around 4:31, so now I want go after 4:25 next year.” 

Grand Rapids Catholic Central senior Joey Puglessi set the LP Division 3 Finals record in the prelims Friday in the 100 backstroke (49.89) and repeated as champion in the event Saturday with a 50.07 clocking.

“It feels great to get the record and defend my title,” said Puglessi, who has signed to swim at the University of Buffalo. “You always want to go out with a (great effort) at your last high school meet.”

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) A Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood swimmer competes during Saturday’s LP Division 3 Finals. (Middle) A competitor swims in the backstroke championship race. (Below) The Cranes pose with their championship trophy. (Click to see more at

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.)