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.
“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.”
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.
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.)
We take a look at all of the action from the 2023 MHSAA Boys Swimming State Finals
Congratulations to our State Champions
Division 1 - Ann Arbor Pioneer
Division 2 - Birmingham Groves
Division 3 - Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood