Dexter Extends Finals Win Streak to 4

By Jason Schmitt
Special for

March 9, 2019

YPSILANTI – It was only fitting that Casey Dolen was the last swimmer in the pool for Dexter on Saturday at the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 Boys Swimming & Diving Finals at Eastern Michigan University. 

He was a member of the Dreadnaughts’ 2016 championship team. And he was there in 2017 and 2018 as well. 

Dolen was the first to touch the wall in the 400-yard freestyle relay, helping his team win the event and lock down the program’s fourth straight Division 2 championship. He, along with senior Niklas Eberly and sophomores Michael Baumann and Clayton Kinnard, finished in a time of 3:06.84, comfortably beating out runner-up Birmingham Groves – which finished second overall in the team standings.

“This is a great group of kids, and to send these seniors out with four in a row is really special,” said Dexter head coach Michael McHugh, whose program has won five Finals titles since the 2012 season. “That’s our goal all year, but we never take anything for granted. 

“The guys really stepped up. We knew Groves was going to come out strong. Our job was to not panic, not overreact and keep doing what we were doing. We knew we had a little bit of a lead (entering Saturday), so as long as we were mistake-free, we’d be OK.”

Groves did indeed come out strong. The Falcons quartet of senior David Helton, juniors Nolan Kamoo and Jackson Gugni and senior Hunter Reilly upended Dexter’s top-seeded 200 medley relay team to start the meet. Their time of 1:34.70 was the best of the weekend and gave their team an early six-point lead over the Dreadnaughts.

But it didn’t take long for Dexter to make its move. A runner-up finish by Dolen in the 200 freestyle helped cut Groves’ lead to three points – and it seemed to get the ball rolling for the Dreadnaughts.

Kinnard’s eighth-place finish in the next race, the 200 individual medley, gave his team an eight-point lead, one which it would not relinquish the rest of the day.

Dexter finished with 239 team points, besting Groves (203) and third-place Birmingham Seaholm (181.5). Midland Dow (162.5) and Grosse Pointe South (149) rounded out the top five.

Eberly was the star of the meet for Dexter. He won both the 50 freestyle and 100 butterfly events. His 20.40 seconds in the 50 matched his preliminary time and beat runner-up Luke Lezotte of Midland Dow by a tenth of a second. 

His time of 47.79 in the 100 butterfly helped him repeat in the event. Walled Lake Northern’s Zane Rosely was a distant second, with a time of 49.94.

“It was definitely a goal of mine, since I started high school, to break 47,” Eberly said. “You don’t see a lot of high schoolers do it. It really sets you up well going into college like that. I knew I could do 47.5 if I really tried. I fell a little bit short, but I’m unbelievably happy with 47.7. I think it’s a phenomenal time.”

Eberly was one of the top swimmers entering the finals and knew he needed to swim up to those high expectations if his team was to have a chance to four-peat.

“I was super happy to be able to hold my places and help the team,” he said. “My situation is definitely different than other kids’. A lot of them have to step up, climb up, maybe they’re seeded eighth or 16th and they have no place to go but up. Going into states, I have nowhere to go but down. So it really adds a lot of pressure.”

Joining Eberly as a two-event winner was Fraser junior Alex Capizzo, who was victorious in both the 200 IM and 500 freestyle, a pair of events he also won a year ago. He beat out Rosely in the IM and Walled Lake Western junior Eric Hieber in the 500.  

Hieber easily won the 200 freestyle, beating out Dolen by more than 1½ seconds.

Dolen did pick up an individual title, narrowly edging Lezotte by two hundredths of a second in the 100 freestyle.

Other individual winners included Jack Hamilton of Berkley, whose time of 50.51 in the backstroke helped him beat out runner-up Ben Conroy of Gibraltar Carlson by nearly a second. And Byron Center senior Jacob Glover bested the field in the 100 breaststroke, finishing in a winning time of 56.38

Midland Dow’s Che Collin, Zach Fewkes, Hans Dehn and Lezotte swam a time of 1:25.13 to take first place in the 200 freestyle relay.

In the diving competition, Okemos junior Hunter Hollenbeck repeated as champion, scoring 462.95 points. Rochester Adams sophomore SooDong Kim and Wyandotte Roosevelt freshman Hudson Hill finished second and third, respectively, both eclipsing 400 points.

Groves, which finished third behind Dexter and Rochester Adams a year ago, is losing a few key seniors to graduation, but returns a good nucleus of athletes, which has head coach Ricky Forrest excited for what lies ahead for his team.

“(Dexter is) an experienced team, and I’ve got a lot of respect for what Mike does with his guys. Every single year, no matter where they’re at on the psych sheet, every team here knows that they’re going to bring it,” Forrest said. “We had an outstanding day during the prelims on Friday and a really good day (on Saturday). We’re going to be missing a lot of (senior) leadership and we’re going to need some boys to step up next year, but we’ve still got a really good core and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

Rochester Adams finished sixth overall with 138 points, with Gibraltar Carlson (120), Detroit U-D Jesuit (102.5), Walled Lake Western (91) and Temperance-Bedford (86.5) rounding out the top 10.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Dexter senior Niklas Eberly swims the winning butterfly during Saturday’s Division 2 Finals at Eastern Michigan University. (Middle) Finishers in the 100 freestyle, including Dexter champion Casey Dolen, look to the scoreboard after their race. (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.)