Groves Accomplishes Year-long Goal in Earning 1st Finals Title Since 2010

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for

March 11, 2023

HOLLAND – Birmingham Groves junior Angus McDonald remembers a phone call between teammates following last year’s fourth-place finish at the Lower Peninsula Division 2 Finals.  

“I remember a year ago, we were on a call late at night saying that we could really win state next year, and we’ve been working for this the whole year,” McDonald said. “It’s something we’ve dreamed of for so long.” 

That dream became a reality Saturday as the Falcons claimed the Division 2 crown by a narrow margin over Detroit U-D Jesuit.

Groves finished with 274 points, while Jesuit had 267 points. Birmingham Seaholm (210) was third and Grosse Pointe South (207) placed fourth. 

The Finals win was the Falcons’ first since 2010. 

“We thought we had a chance to win the BIg Dance,” Groves coach Ricky Forrest said. “We knew it was going to be very tight. We knew it was going to be a dogfight, and it was. 

“We had a lot of kids step up, and our captains and our leadership on the team did a tremendous job.” 

Groves has steadily climbed the ladder at the Finals. The Falcons had placed ninth two years ago, and knew this feat was possible with the return of several experienced swimmers. 

Fenton’s Max Haney races to the 200 IM victory. “It was a goal that they had last March, and they put in the work,” Forrest said. “It's one of the most rewarding feelings in the world when you put in the work, and you get to see it. I'm getting goosebumps just talking about it right now.” 

McDonald won the 100-yard breaststroke (55.90) and was a part of the victorious 200 medley relay team that set the tone early. 

“We knew if any year was going to be the year, this was it, and we’ve been striving so hard to make it happen,” McDonald said. “U of D put up a great fight, and they’re a very strong team. We’re just so happy to come out with this, and this feels amazing.” 

Senior Ian Duncan, who clocked a winning time of 1:40.01 in the 200 free, became emotional as he clutched the championship trophy and talked about the journey to reach this moment. 

“In this sport more than anything, you have early mornings and late nights and you think about all the things that can get you through those hard practices when you really don't want to do it,” Duncan said. “Keeping your dreams alive, that one day you might get in the pool and win it all for your team and the school that you represented for four years. It's really something that keeps you going through the hard times. It's immeasurable.”

After Friday’s preliminaries, Groves set out to prove it had enough mettle to win it all. 

“We brought it together in our hotel room, and we thought we had a chance to do something special,” Duncan said. “We all looked each other in the eye, and we all knew if we could come together as a team and trusted each other then we were going to come out on top.” 

Grosse Pointe South’s Logan Hepner launches during his repeat pursuit in diving.Forrest said the little things made the difference. 

“Our boys swam outstanding yesterday and today, and it's really crazy how all the small things that we teach and we coach always matter when the races are so tight,” he said. 

Jesuit placed runner-up for the second-straight year. Last year the Cubs finished second to Ann Arbor Skyline. 

“We kind of knew all season that we were talented,” Jesuit coach Drew Edson said. “I didn’t realize we were going to be up like this, but our focus the entire season and this weekend was the team. 

“This is the best team around when it comes to being loving and appreciative for the successes they've had because they’ve worked for every amount of it.” 

Jesuit captured wins in a pair of relay events, the 200 and 400 free. 

“Top to bottom our kids did phenomenally,” Edson said. “Our relays were great, individually we were great and we had a lot of top-end speed. We were just missing a little bit of depth, and I think that’s where championships are won. Our kids swam their hearts out.”  

Fenton senior Max Haney became a two-time Finals champion winning the 200 IM (1:48.44) and the 100 back (48.92). 

Grosse Pointe South senior Logan Hepner recorded the top honor in diving for the second-straight season, this time by scoring 560.801 points. His father Chad had won a Finals championship in diving for the Blue Devils in 1993.

Byron Center's Austin Briggs (50 freestyle), Grosse Pointe south's Keiran Rahmaan (100 butterfly) and Troy Liu (100 free), and Walled Lake Northern's Seah Diffenderfer (500 free) also won championships, Diffenderfer repeating in that race.

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PHOTOS (Top) Birmingham Groves celebrates its LPD2 team championship Saturday at Holland Aquatic Center. (Middle) Fenton’s Max Haney races to the 200 IM victory. (Below) Grosse Pointe South’s Logan Hepner launches during his repeat pursuit in diving. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)

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.)