Preview: Finals Opportunities Abound for Swim & Dive Contenders

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

March 9, 2023

Even with two returning team champions expected to reign again, it’s fair to say there are abundant opportunities for first-time winners to climb the podiums at this weekend’s Lower Peninsula Boys Swimming & Diving Finals.

Ann Arbor Pioneer and East Grand Rapids are pursuing third-straight team titles in Divisions 1 and 3, respectively. But the top-three ranked contenders in Division 2 either haven’t won a Finals or haven’t won in over a decade. And of 27 individual events across the three meets, only six will welcome back last year’s winners as the great majority graduated last spring.

Preliminaries at all three Finals sites begin at noon Friday, with Saturday championship events starting at noon as well. Both days of all three meets will be streamed live and viewable with subscription on For information on purchasing tickets, plus psych sheets, dive orders and more, visit the Boys Swimming & Diving page – and see below for a glance at team and individual contenders to follow.

Lower Peninsula Division 1 at Calvin University

Reigning champion: Ann Arbor Pioneer
2022 runner-up: Northville
2023 top-ranked: 1. Ann Arbor Pioneer, 2. Northville, 3. Detroit Catholic Central

Pioneer has won the last two LPD1 championships, last year by 98 points with a total of 365. With 18 entries seeded to score and five top seeds – including all three relays – the Pioneers certainly are favorites to extend that streak. Northville’s runner-up finish last season was its highest at a Finals since winning its lone title in 1973, and the Mustangs have 13 entries seeded to score. Detroit Catholic Central placed eighth last season and is seeking its first championship, and has an intriguing mix with nine entries seeded to score including a top seed, plus two divers.

Olin Charnstrom, Oxford junior: After finishing 13th in the 100-yard backstroke and just missing the final heats in the 50-yard in 2022, he has an opportunity for a big move as the backstroke top seed (49.44 seconds) by a second and the third seed in the 100-yard freestyle (46.54).

Ryan Gurgel, Canton senior: Last season’s champion in the 100-yard butterfly and runner-up in the 200-yard freestyle is the first seed in both races this weekend in 50.64 and 1:42.16, respectively.

Luke Mychalowych, Detroit Catholic Central junior: He finished fourth in the 100-yard breaststroke and just missed the final heats in the 100 free last winter, but enters this weekend top-seeded in the breaststroke (57.25), eighth-seeded in the 200-yard freestyle and a possibility to swim on two top-four seeded relays.

Gabriel Sanchez-Burks, Ann Arbor Pioneer senior: After a big jump last season that saw him finish second in the 50, seventh in the 100 free and as part of championship and runner-up relays, he’s lined up for an even bigger finish to his high school career. He has top seeds in the 50 (20.25) and 100 (45.31) and is likely to swim on two of the three top-seeded relays, and his 50 seed time is only 24 hundredths of a second off the LPD1 record swam by Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central’s Henry Schutte in 2018.

Owen Stevens, Zeeland sophomore: He debuted at the Finals with a sixth place in the 200-yard individual medley and fourth in the 500-yard freestyle last year, and he returns as the top seed in the IM (1:54.30) and 500 (4:38.99) and possible swimmer on two top-three seeded relays.

Ann Arbor Pioneer 200 freestyle relay: The Pioneers have a seed time of 1:25.53, nearly two seconds faster than second-seeded Holland West Ottawa and about 2½ seconds off the LPD1 record of 1:23.25 swam by West Ottawa in 2021.  

Julian Cardenas, Rockford junior: He was last season’s LPD1 diving runner-up, slightly more than 43 points back with a score of 413.55 – but he posted the highest LPD1 Regional score last week of 486.40 to clear his qualifying meet field by 70 points.

Alex Poulin, Waterford Mott senior: Last season’s diving champion with a score of 456.70 posted the second-highest LPD1 Regional score last week, 428.80, to win his qualifying meet by eight points.

Lower Peninsula Division 2 at Holland Aquatic Center

Reigning champion: Ann Arbor Skyline
2022 runner-up: Detroit U-D Jesuit
2023 top-ranked: 1. Birmingham Groves, 2. Detroit U-D Jesuit, 3. Grosse Pointe South.

Jesuit missed a first Finals championship in this sport last season by 25 points and will make another run following 14 entries seeded to score with four top seeds – including two relays – plus two divers. But favored this time is Groves, which finished fourth a year ago, second as recently as 2019 and is seeking its first championship since 2010. Groves has 19 entries seeded to score, with two top seeds. Grosse Pointe South is another regular contender and placed third last season, 53 points off the lead. The Blue Devils also are seeking a first championship and were runners-up in 2021. They have 11 entries seeded to score with three top seeds including a favored relay, and five divers including the reigning champion.

Austin Briggs, Byron Center senior: He finished 10th in the 50 and 11th in the 100 free last season but will push toward the front entering this weekend seeded first in the 50 (20.94) and second in the 100 breaststroke (58.34), with his time in the latter only one-hundredth of a second behind the top seed.

Sean Diffenderfer, Walled Lake Northern senior: The reigning champion in the 500 and fourth-place finisher in the 200 free is seeded fifth in the 500 and 10th in the 200 this weekend.

Ian Duncan, Birmingham Groves senior: He was third in the 200 free and fourth in the 500 in 2022 and should contend again in both seeded third in the 200 (1:43.45) and first in the 500 (4:41.78) while also likely to swim on two of the team’s three top-five seeded relays.

Max Haney, Fenton senior: Last season’s butterfly runner-up and fifth-place finisher in the IM could cap high school in a big way seeded first in the IM (1:51.38), by more than a second, and second in the backstroke (50.48).

Angus MacDonald, Birmingham Groves junior: Another Groves standout, he’s seeded first in the breaststroke (58.33), third in the IM (1:53.35) and also likely will swim on two of those contending relays. He finished runner-up in both the IM and 500 last season.

Keiran Rahmaan, Grosse Pointe South senior: He finished third in the backstroke, fourth in the butterfly and led off the LPD2 Finals record-setting 200-yard medley relay last season, and he also was part of a relay champ in 2021. He could add substantially to those accomplishments; he’s seeded first this weekend in both the butterfly (49.61) and backstroke (49.91) and likely will swim on the top-seeded 400 freestyle relay (3:10.14).   

Evan Tack, Detroit U-D Jesuit sophomore: His Finals debut last season included a sixth place in the IM, 10th in the breaststroke and two top-three relay finishes. He enters this weekend seeded first in the 100 (46.24) and 200 frees (1:41.25) and as part of two top-two seeded relays including the favorite in the 200 freestyle (1:27.09).

Logan Hepner, Grosse Pointe South senior: Last season’s diving champion by more than 49 points went 618.85 to set the pace across LPD2 at last week’s Regionals, although Birmingham Seaholm senior Grayson Davis was his runner-up and the only other to break 600 (or 500) with a 601.90.

Lower Peninsula Division 3 at Oakland University

Reigning champion: East Grand Rapids
2022 runner-up: Holland Christian
2023 top-ranked: 1. East Grand Rapids, 2. Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, 3. Holland Christian.

The last two seasons have finished the same way at the top with EGR first and Holland Christian second. The Pioneers are favored again on the strength of 13 entries seeded to score – including two top seeds – and two divers competing. Holland Christian – most recently champion in 2019 and 2018 – doesn’t have a top seed but also has 13 entries seeded to score plus two divers. Cranbrook is seeking its first championship since winning four straight from 2014-17, and has the people to do so with 15 entries seeded to score, including three top seeds, and a diver.

Carter Kegle, East Grand Rapids junior: He finished first in the 500, second in the 200 free and swam on two top-three relays last season, and he returns as the top seed in the 500 (4:40.95), second seed in the 200 (1:43.81) and expected to swim on two top-three seeded relays.

Alec Lampen, Manistee junior: He finished sixth in the backstroke and helped all three Manistee relays place last season, and he should be a major point scorer again seeded first in the 50 (20.92) and backstroke (51.40) and swimming on two top-seven seeded relays.

London Rising, Adrian freshman: He’ll make his Finals debut as the top seed in the 200 free (1:41.71), by two seconds, and the fourth seed in the butterfly, plus he’s expected to swim on two second-seeded relays.

Ethan Schwab, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood senior: He’ll look to add to a relay championship he helped win in 2021, seeded first this time in the IM (1:53.99) and breaststroke (55.92) and as a possibility to swim on two of three top-six seeded relays including the favorite in the 400-yard freestyle (3:13.77). He finished second in both the 500 and breaststroke last season.

Liam Smith, Otsego freshman: Another standout freshman, he enters the weekend seeded first in the butterfly (50.54) and second in the IM (1:55.25).

Ben Sytsma, Grand Rapids Christian junior: The reigning champion in the 100 free and runner-up in the 50 – and champion as well as part of 200 and 400 freestyle relays – is the top seed in the 100 (45.88), the second seed in the 50 (20.95) by just three-hundredths of a second and could swim on the top-seeded 200 free relay plus another.

Mitch Brown, Chelsea junior: Last season’s diving runner-up to record-setting senior Charley Bayer from East Grand Rapids is in position to ascend after positing a division-best 538 to win his Regional last week – clearing the rest of LPD3 by 61 points.

PHOTO Swimmers launch during a Lower Peninsula Division 2 Finals race in 2022. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)

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.)