Holland Christian Shows D3 Dominance

March 10, 2018

By Chris Stevens
Special for Second Half

UNIVERSITY CENTER – After finishing second in the state twice during his coaching career, Holland Christian’s Todd Smeenge had the unmistakable look of a champion following Saturday’s Lower Peninsula Division 3 swimming & diving championships at Saginaw Valley State University.

Smeenge’s hair, his shirt and his shorts were all wet. Only championship coaches know that feeling.

Smeenge’s team, led by superb performances from seniors Skylar Cook-Weeks and Ian Miskelley, unseated four-time reigning champion Bloomfield Hills Cranbook Kingswood to capture the title. Holland Christian finished with 326.50 points, easily out-distancing East Grand Rapids which finished second with 240 points. Spring Lake was third with 201 points, while Cranbook was fourth at 197.

“It’s a great feeling,” Smeenge said. “Between Cranbrook and East Rapids, they’re the perennial favorites, so it’s a good feeling (to win the title.)”

It was the first time Holland Christian’s boys had won a Finals swim title since 1989. Smeenge has led the Maroons to a pair of runner-up finishes during his time as coach, in 1990 and 2011.

Cook-Weeks, meanwhile, was at his absolute best en route to winning two individual titles and being part of two first-place relay teams. Cook-Weeks finished his high school career with seven Finals titles.

And Saturday’s team finish topped it all off.

“It feels fantastic,” Cook-Weeks said moments after he and his teammates, along with their head coach, carried out the tradition of jumping into the pool to celebrate. “To go out my senior year by winning a state championship, you can’t ask for anything more than that. It just feels great to be able to do it with these guys. I’m going to miss being with them.”

Cook-Weeks won individual titles in the 200-yard freestyle and the 500 freestyle. His time of 1:37.27 in the 200 free set a new LP Division 3 Finals record. In the 500, he broke his own meet record with a time of 4:25.84.

“His work ethic in the pool is just outstanding,” Smeenge said. “It drives everybody else. That’s the thing that I will think of and remember the most about him.”

Cook-Weeks also was part of the winning 200 and 400 relay teams. His teammates on the 200 team were Miskelley, junior Brad Windemuller and junior Jacob Heeres; and on the 400 team were Heeres, junior Riley VanMeter and senior Luke Mason.

“We wanted to go into the meet by doing the best that we could, and we came out the way we wanted to be,” Cook-Weeks said of the mindset that he and his teammates had entering the meet as the top-ranked team.

The Maroons’ Miskelley also turned in a stellar performance. He won a pair of individual titles, capturing the 200 individual medley in a meet record time of 1:49.58. He also placed first in the 100 backstroke in a meet-record time of 49.05 seconds.

Mason was second in the 200 free and third in the 500.

“We obviously lose some big guns (to graduation) with Skylar, Ian and Luke,” Smeenge said. “But we’ve got a nice group of guys who are returning and who scored points for us. I don’t know if it’s going to be enough to win a state championship again, but we’re going to give it a shot.”

In other events, Christian Bart of East Grand Rapids won the 50 free in 20.31 seconds, breaking his previous meet record in the race. Nolan Briggs of Byron Center captured the 100 butterfly in 49.16 seconds, and Spring Lake’s Cam Peel placed first in the 100 free in a meet-record time of 44.97.

Bart also repeated in the 100 breaststroke in 56.07 seconds, just off his meet record time of 55.82 set last season.

St. Johns’ junior Cayden Petrak won the diving championship with 470.35 points, edging East Grand Rapids sophomore Nick Merritt by a mere 1.5.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Holland Christian hoists its LP Division 3 championship trophy Saturday. (Middle) Swimmers launch during the 400 freestyle relay. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)

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.)