Performance: Dexter's Rob Zofchak

January 13, 2016

Rob Zofchak
Dexter senior – Swimming

Zofchak entered this season poised for a strong finish to his high school career coming off his first MHSAA championship and a Lower Peninsula Division 2 Finals record in the 100-yard backstroke (49.72 seconds) last winter. He’s on pace to equal that success – and accomplish much more. Zofchak was one of two multiple winners at Saturday’s Spartan Invitational at Battle Creek Lakeview, besting a field that included most of the top-ranked teams in Lower Peninsula Division 2 to earn this week’s Michigan National Guard “Performance of the Week.”

Zofchak won the 200-yard freestyle in 1:42.07, more than five seconds faster than the runner-up, and his winning backstroke time of 51.44 was more than a second faster than the rest. He also swam on the winning 400 freestyle relay (3:13.36) and fifth-place 200 medley relay (1:40.39). Top-ranked Dexter as a team finished first overall, in front of No. 4 Warren DeLaSalle and also ahead of No. 5 Lakeview, reigning champion and No. 2 Birmingham Seaholm, No. 3 Birmingham Groves, No. 8 Grosse Pointe South, No. 10 Portage Northern and Division 1 No. 2 Ann Arbor Skyline.

The two-time team Most Valuable Performer holds three individual and a relay school record, and last season was part of 17 pool record swims at pools throughout Michigan. He’s also earned All-America honors five times from the national coaches association and has signed to continue his swimming career on scholarship at the University of Michigan. Zofchak is a member of the National Honor Society, and last summer he qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials in the 100 and 200 backstrokes with times of 56.94 and 2:02.56, respectively. 

Coach Michael McHugh said: “Rob is a gifted swimmer, but without the hard work and dedication he has shown throughout his career none of the accomplishments would have been possible. He puts himself in a position to succeed each day and motivates his teammates to raise their effort level to match. He is such a versatile swimmer that I can put in almost anywhere in the lineup and know he will come through for the team. As a captain for us this year he has shown great leadership and a willingness to go the extra distance for his teammates. His teammates look to him in big moments, and he is always ready to give it everything he has in order to get the job done.”

Performance Point: “I think (Spartan) went pretty well. Obviously, there’s a lot that I still need to improve – and there always will be. But it really sets us up with most of the other teams. The meet had most of the top five or six teams in Division 2 there. … We’d never actually gotten a trophy at that meet.”

Title time: Dexter won its last MHSAA team championship in boys swimming & diving in 2012; the Dreadnaughts finished fourth, second and third at the LP Division 2 Finals over Zofchak’s first three seasons. The Dexter girls, including his sophomore sister Sarah, won the LPD2 title this fall. “I know a lot of the guys are really looking at trying to get that title, especially with the girls winning it. It would be a great way to end my high school career, for sure. It would be a really great way to end it after all we’ve been through.”

Family ties: In addition to Zofchak’s younger sister, his older brother Jonathan was a Dexter standout and swims at Michigan State. “I try to teach my sister as much as I can, which is not much. I like to help her as much as I can. With Jonathan, I always try to go after him. I always want to beat my big brother.”

Chasing Clay: “Certainly, there are times and names out there that you always want to measure yourself up to, come close to those times. Clay Youngquist’s times (for Battle Creek Lakeview) in everything; I look at those and aspire for those. His 200 free (1:34.28 in 2011) in pretty absurd, probably untouchable. But I’d like to swim at the end of the year and at least be close.”

Hailing U-M: “I really admire the program there. I really admire the coaches, and I like what they have going on. On top of being one of the best swim schools in the nation, it’s a top academic school as well. Especially with it being 15 minutes from my house, it was one of my greatest choices. I’ll try for med(ical) school. My uncle is a doctor, and I want to help solve issues with people, help make people better.”

– Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor

Every week during the 2015-16 school year, Second Half and the Michigan National Guard will recognize a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.

The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and respond as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our Nation's freedom, or protecting lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster.

Previous 2015-16 honorees
Jan. 6: Tyler Deming, Caro wrestling – Read
Dec. 15: Jordan Weber, East Jordan boys basketball – Read
Dec. 8: Kaitlyn Geers, Kent City girls basketball – Read

PHOTOS: (Top) Rob Zofchak was a two-time champion at the Spartan Invitational, winning the 200 freestyle and 100 backstroke. (Middle) The backstroke is Zofchak's favorite stroke, and he is the reigning Lower Peninsula Division 2 champion in the event. (Action photos by Doni Houghtaling; head shot by Tammy Lynne Photography.)

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.)