Performance: Midland Dow's Nehemiah Mork

February 4, 2016

Nehemiah Mork
Midland Dow senior – Swimming & Diving

He's set his share of records, but for a year Mork had his eye on another he just missed breaking as a junior. It's his now. Mork set or was part of four meet records at the Tri-Cities Swimming & Diving Championships at Saginaw Valley State University on Saturday, earning the Michigan National Guard’s Performance of the Week.

The Michigan State University recruit broke his own meet record in the 50-yard freestyle (21.26) and another with his opening leg of the winning 400 relay (45.90). But the record he aimed for was in the 100 butterfly, where he knocked three-time MHSAA individual champion Wade King of Saginaw MacArthur off the board with a time of 51.13; King’s record had stood since 1982. Mork also teamed with Ben Brandstadt, Noah Behm and Jacob Krzciok to break the meet record in the 200 freestyle relay in 1:29.10.

Mork won Lower Peninsula Division 2 Finals championships in the 50 and 100 freestyles last season and owns or is part of seven school records – for all three relays, plus the 50 (20.80), 100 (45.67) and 200 (1:41.6) freestyles and butterfly (50.46). A top-10 student at his school academically, Mork has an unweighted grade-point average of 3.95 and will major in mechanical engineering at MSU. He was quick to thank his coaches for investing so much time in his development; his coach, Gary Strickler, in turn explained how dedication had played a great role in creating his latest of many champions.

Coach Gary Strickler said: “The first key is he is a great student; he’s an all-A student, so that’s a significant accomplishment to also be a gifted athlete at the same time. He’s put in countless days of practice since he’s been 10, 11, 12 years old. That in itself is just an unbelievable commitment to a lifetime of swimming. As far as our team is concerned, he shows leadership. It’s different than football or basketball; (for swimming) it’s example. He’s always setting a great example, working at peak level so everyone else sees he’s working at a peak level. And that multiplies his ability to contribute to the team. … If someone sees someone doing great things, they tend to want to copy it.”

Performance Point: “Yes, the two individual events were pretty exciting and breaking Wade King’s record was pretty awesome. But my 200 free relay also beat the meet record. Everybody swam really fast. We were losing for a while, and then we came back to win it, so it was just a really exciting event for everybody.”

Raving about relays: Like many elite swimmers and runners at the high school level, Mork enjoys the opportunities to compete with teammates. “Individual (events) it’s a lot of pressure on me. I have to do so well so I can get an award. For a relay there’s a little less pressure. You have people who can help you if you do not go quite as fast as you want. It also gives you extra incentive to do super well, so your teammates get recognized and get rewards. Relays are nice because everybody gets pumped up; we are united for a goal and we just help each other get excited.”

Unseating the King: “Last year, (Wade King) held the record for the 100 fly for Tri-Cities and (Saginaw) Valley Championships. As a junior I broke his 100 fly record in the Valley Championships and just missed it in Tri-Cities. This year, I said I’ve got to get it this time. A bunch of people were coming up to me during the week saying it’s such an old record, he was such a fast swimmer. ‘Can you break it? Will you break it?’ There was that pressure, but it was very exciting also. It was a super old record, so it was time for it to come down.”

Latest of Dow’s Greats: “You might think it would be stressful to fill those shoes of Jackson Goethe and Ben Martin. They were just so fast and so good, so it’s exciting to me because I get to expand that role. So you get to take on sprint events, and you have to do as well as they did. You feel pressure, but when you accomplish those goals as being faster than they were, it feels extra good. You’re helping out your team, leading the team just as well as the people who came before you. I guess there’s a little more pressure involved, but once you accomplish those goals, it feels so much better.”

Mechanical-Minded: “I’m thinking right now I might want to go into the automotive industry. … I love math and science – those are my two best subjects. I also just love machines, everything they do, and I loving talking about the ideas.”

– 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 responds 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. 27: Mardrekia Cook, Muskegon girls basketball - Read
Jan. 20: Sage Castillo, Hartland wrestling - Read
Jan. 13: Rob Zofchak, Dexter swimming & diving - Read
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) Midland Dow's Nehemiah Mork competes in a race this season and holds seven school records. (Middle) Mork surges ahead during the butterfly. (Photos courtesy of Susan Drumright.)

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.)