Diving & Depth Help Deliver EGR's Latest Finals Win

By Dan D'Addona
Special for Second Half

March 27, 2021

HOLLAND — The East Grand Rapids boys swimming & diving team was devastated when last year’s MHSAA Finals were canceled.

The Pioneers were poised to win and immediately set out on a mission to claim the Lower Peninsula Division 3 title this season.

East Grand Rapids won Saturday’s meet with 308 points despite not winning any swimming events.

Of course, diving was another story.

EGR started strong on Friday, going 1-2 in diving with Charley Bayer winning with 490 points, just ahead of teammate Billy Kirchgessner (472.90). Chelsea’s Mitch Brown was third (450.05).

“Everything started flowing together, and it all worked out in the meet for us,” Bayer said. “That is our biggest advantage. Having a teammate that good can push you, and we pushed each other. It is a blessing to be part of a program like this. This team win is the most important in a long time because we wanted a big win last year and it didn’t happen. This was a redemption win.”

The Pioneers earned their record 26th Finals win with their depth and relays.

In the 200-yard freestyle relay, East Grand Rapids finished second in 1:26.89 with Will Laham, Max Jung, Kenny Pontius and Logan McCahill posting the runner-up finish.

“Last year was traumatic. We had a lot of kids work so hard and we had a good chance to win it. This year, just getting to get to the meet was a plus, but to win it without taking any swimming firsts spoke well for the group,” EGR coach Butch Briggs said. “Diving got us 37 points, and you can’t do much better than that. It just got everyone pumped up.”

Lower Peninsula Division 3 boys swimming & diving 2Holland Christian finished second with 218.5 points. Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood was third (194), Spring Lake was fourth (196) and Mason was fifth (162).

Holland Christian senior Colin Kalkman won the title in the 100 freestyle, finishing in 45.72. He used a strong finish to pull ahead of runner-up Jacob Ryan (45.92) of Detroit Country Day. Trenton’s Spencer Boling-Hamer was third (47.24).

Kalkman then won the 100 backstroke in 50.96, holding off Pinckney’s Tyler Ray (51.09) and East Grand Rapids’ McCahill (51.45).

The Maroons also won the 400 freestyle relay with Joey Grasman, Christian Hoeksema, Blake Assink and Kalkman touching first in 3:09.58. Spring Lake (3:09.73) was second, followed by Mason (3:10.67).

“That was fantastic to win the final relay. They did what they had to do,” Holland Christian coach Todd Smeenge said. “I am happy for all the seniors, and Colin had a great meet. I am so happy for him. It was satisfying to see that work pay off. We scored about what we thought, but East Grand Rapids ate up all kinds of points.”

The fastest race of the meet was the 100 breaststroke, where the top three finishers bettered the previous Division 3 record. Milan’s Andrew Dobrzanski won the event in 54.67, followed by Cranbrook Kingswood’s Ethan Schwab (55.46) and Otsego’s Owen Stedner (55.85).

Dobrzanski also won the 200 IM in 1:50.07, a dominating performance that beat the field by nearly four seconds. Grand Rapids Christian’s Jacob Haaksma was second (1:53..94), followed by McCahill (1:55.17).

Dobrzanski was named Swimmer of the Meet .

“It means a lot. I was shocked when I saw my name up there,” Dobrzanski said. “The breaststroke was amazing with all of the competition.”

Cranbrook Kingswood won the 200 medley relay in 1:34.97 with Colin Zexter, Ethan Schwab, Josh Zexter and Andrew Zhang.  Spring Lake was second (1:35.51), followed by East Grand Rapids (1:37.63).

Lower Peninsula Division 3 boys swimming & diving 3

Trenton’s Spencer Boling-Hamer won the 200 freestyle in 1:42.21, ahead of Grasman (1:42.40) and Mason’s Jonas Cantrell (1:42.49).

Detroit Country Day’s Ryan dropped nearly half a second from his seed time to win the 50 freestyle in 20.58, holding off Spring Lake’s Charles Brown (20.71) and Mason’s Gabe Williams (21.68) in an extremely fast race.

Pinckney’s Ray was the winner in the 100 butterfly, going 49.23 to hold off Spring Lake’s Brown (49.80) and Mason’s Liam Boomer (50.48).

Cantrell won the 500 freestyle in 4:27.58, ahead of Cranbrook Kingswood’s Schwab (4:35.14) and Pontiac Notre Dame Prep’s Griffin Gushman (4:41.64).

Mason’s Williams, Tommy Hebert, Boomer and Cantrell won the 200 freestyle relay in 1:26.52, ahead of East Grand Rapids (1:26.89) and Grand Rapids Christian (1:27.13).

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) East Grand Rapids celebrates its team championship Saturday at Holland Aquatic Center. (Middle) Milan’s Andrew Dobrzanski won the breaststroke and 200 IM. (Below) Cranbrook’s Andrew Zhang looks up at the clock after a race. (Click for photos by Dan D’Addona.)

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

By Jason Schmitt
Special for MHSAA.com

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.)