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.
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.)
Charley Bayer ♦ East Grand Rapids
Diving ♦ Senior
Bayer capped his high school diving career at Saturday’s Lower Peninsula Division 3 Finals with an extraordinary performance that may not be surpassed for some time. Bayer posted a score of 590.85, repeating as LPD3 champion and also breaking the all-Finals record of 584.75 set in 1981 by Ann Arbor Pioneer’s Bruce Kimball, who went on to earn All-America honors at University of Michigan and a silver medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics.
Bayer had scored 490.75 to win the diving competition by just less than 18 points at the 2021 LPD3 Finals, and he had dived a personal-best 555 during the Division 3 Invitational this regular season. He won this past weekend by 134.80 points, as East Grand Rapids also repeated as team champion. Bayer will continue his academic and diving careers at South Carolina, drawn also by his interest in the university’s business school.
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PHOTO (Top) East Grand Rapids' Charley Bayer dives during last weekend's LPD3 Finals at Calvin College. (Action photo by Steve Willison; head shot by Shannon Pontius.)