Preview: Oakland Powers Seek 4-Peats

March 10, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Only one Lower Peninsula boys swimming & diving program has won at least four straight MHSAA Finals championships over the last two decades.

Birmingham Brother Rice in Division 1 and Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood in Division 3 have the opportunity this weekend to join the Saline teams from 2010-13 in building such a remarkable streak.

Both the Warriors and Cranes are going for their fourth straight MHSAA titles as action begins both Friday (preliminaries) and Saturday at noon at three sites. See below for team favorites and top individuals to watch at all three meets.

All three Finals also will be streamed live and can be watched with subscription on MHSAA.TV. Click for lineups and seed times for all three meets and below for direct links to broadcasts of all three meets. 

Division 1 - Division 2 -  Division 3

LP Division 1 at Oakland University

Top-ranked Birmingham Brother Rice has won the last three Division 1 titles, but this isn’t necessarily a one-team race. The Warriors have two top seeds, but only 13 other entries seeded to score among the top 16. Second-ranked Skyline, the 2015 runner-up in Division 2, is seeking its first championship and has 17 top-16 seeds and a strong diver. Saline and Novi tied for third in the final state ranking and should be in the mix, Saline with 12 seeded to score and Novi with 14 and a diver.

Spencer Carl, Holland West Ottawa senior – The reigning champion in the butterfly and 200-yard freestyle is expected to close his career with at least one more title; he’s seeded first in the 200 (1:39.77) and second in the 500 (4:37.67.) and is expected to swim on two top-five seeded relays.

Jonathan Lee, Detroit Catholic Central junior – He moved up from 13th in the breaststroke as a freshman to fourth last season and also took sixth in the individual medley; he’s seeded only ninth in the IM (1:56.43) but first in the breaststroke (56.54).

Alex Margherio, Birmingham Brother Rice junior – Margherio was part of Finals champions last season in the 200 medley and 400 freestyle relays, and he also took second in the butterfly and third in the backstroke. Both relays are seeded among the top five and the medley (1:33.26) has the top seed, and individually Margherio is seeded second in the butterfly (50.17) and first in the backstroke (50.97).

Camden Murphy, Novi senior – One of the most highly-regarded swimmers his age in the country, Murphy decided to swim for his high school team as a senior and has the top seed time in the IM (1:49.10) by nearly three seconds and the top butterfly seed time (47.94) by more than two; his butterfly time would break the LP Division 1 Finals record and approach the all-Finals record of 47.51. He could also swim on any of three top-five relays.

Benjamin Rojewski, Livonia Stevenson sophomore – He placed seventh in the 500 last season as a freshman, but carries the top seed in that race (4:36.49) by more than a second and is seeded fifth in the 200 freestyle (1:42.94).

Henry Schutte, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central sophomore – He took second in both the 50 and 100 freestyles last season as a freshman, and enters this weekend with the top 50 seed (20.87) and third-fastest in the 100 (46.36).

Gabriel Trevino, Zeeland senior –

After taking fifth in the 50 and 100 last season as a junior, he’s seeded second in the 50 (20.95) and first in the 100 (46.09) and could also swim on any of three qualified relays.

LP Division 2 at Eastern Michigan University

Top-ranked Ann Arbor Huron has four MHSAA titles during a highly-regarded history, but is seeking its first since winning Division 1 in 2008. The River Rats were 10th in Division 1 last season and have 12 individuals and all three relays seeded to score. Dexter is the reigning champion and has won this division two of the last five seasons; it also has 12 individuals and all three relays in scoring position. Groves is tied with Dexter for the No. 2 ranking and finished fifth a year ago. It has 11 individual seeds among the top 16 and also all three relays in position to score, plus a diver competing.

Alexander Capizzo, Fraser freshman – At his first Finals, Capizzo enters with the fastest seed in the 500 (4:32.05) by more than three seconds and third-fastest in the IM (1:55.80).

Niklas Eberly, Dexter sophomore – After finishing 16th in the 200 freestyle and seventh in the 500 last season for Pinckney, he enters this weekend seeded first in the butterfly (51.32) and sixth in the 200 freestyle (1:45.11) and potentially part of any of three top-six relays.

Noah Frassrand, Ann Arbor Huron senior – He finished seventh in the IM and 10th in the breaststroke in Division 1 last season for Ann Arbor Pioneer, and enters this Division 2 Finals fourth in the breaststroke (59.01) and top-seeded in the IM (1:54.43) and as part of two top-seven relays.

Jacob Krzciok, Midland Dow junior – He’s back after finishing 10th in the 100 freestyle and swimming on three top-nine relays in 2016, and he’ll have a chance to contribute even more seeded first in the 50 (20.89) and second in the 100 (46.51) while possibly swimming on any of three top-11 relays.

Ryan Lawrence, Birmingham Seaholm senior – He was part of championship 200 and 400 freestyle relays last season and also took second in the 100 freestyle and 10th in the backstroke. This weekend, he’s seeded second in the 50 (21.14), first in the 100 free (46.49) and those two relays also are seeded first at 1:27.49 and 3:13.24, respectively.

Zach Milke, Warren DeLaSalle junior – In addition to finishing third in the backstroke and eighth in the IM last season, Milke was part of the champion medley relay and third-place 400 relay. He’s seeded third in the 50 (21.23) and first in the backstroke (50.88) this time, and that medley relay (1:36.74) is seeded first while the 400 is seeded second (3:13.53).

Graham Miotke, Rochester Adams junior – The reigning champion in the 500 also took fourth in the 200 last season and finds himself seeded second in both races with a 1:43.41 in the 200 and 4:35.29 in the 500.

Patrick Seidel, Birmingham Groves junior – He’s expected to take another jump after finishing sixth in the breaststroke and 11th in the IM last season; he’s seeded first in the breaststroke (58.78) and sixth in the IM (1:58.48) and could swim on two top-seven relays.

David Turner, Pinckney senior – He’s looking at a strong finish to his career after taking ninth in the 200 freestyle and 11th in the 100 last winter. Turner is seeded first in the 200 (1:43.34) and third in the 100 (46.89).

LP Division 3 at Holland Aquatic Center

After trailing East Grand Rapids in the first three state rankings this season, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood grabbed a tie for the top spot with the Pioneers in the final listing as the Cranes go for a fourth straight championship. They have all three relays and 14 individuals with top-16 seeds. East Grand Rapids, last season’s runner-up, has only three relays and nine individual entries seeded to score, but also the reigning diving champion and another contender in that event. Chelsea finished runner-up in both 2014 and 2015 and has three relays and 11 individual entries among the top 16 seeds in those events, including three top seeds and two second seeds.

Rudy Aguilar, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep senior – He’s looking to add to the relay championship he won for Brother Rice as a sophomore, and is favored as the top seed in the 100 freestyle (45.71) and 200 freestyle (1:39.93). He finished second in the 100 and fourth in the backstroke for Notre Dame Prep last season.

Christian Bart, East Grand Rapids junior – He added a championship in the IM and runner-up finish in the breaststroke to two second places as a freshman; this weekend he’s seeded first in the breaststroke (57.17) and second in the 50 (21.18) with spots on two top-seven relays as well.

Skyler Cook-Weeks, Holland Christian junior – Cook-Weeks made good on his top seed in the 500 last season with the title and finished second in the 200 as well; he’s seeded first in the 500 again (4:33.98) and second to Aguilar in the 200 (1:40.67) while swimming on possibly any of three top-six relays. The 400 freestyle relay is seeded first (3:10.63) by nearly a second.

Joey Mangner, Chelsea senior – The 2015 champion in the 50 false-started in the Final last season but did finish fourth in the 100 and anchored the champion medley relay. He’s seeded first in the 50 (20.78) with a time that would tie the meet record, and second to Aguilar in the 100 (46.50) while possibly swimming on the top-seeded 200 freestyle (1:26.86), second-seeded 400 freestyle (3:11.41) or top-seeded medley (1:35.59) relays.

Luke Mason, Holland Christian junior – He enters this weekend seeded second to Cook-Weeks in the 500 (4:44.17) and first in the IM (1:56.26) and potentially could swim on any of three top-six relays as well.

Ben Puglessi, Grand Rapids Catholic Central junior – After finishing seventh in the 200 freestyle and 10th in the backstroke as a sophomore, Puglessi enters as the third seed in the 200 (1:44.73) and second in the butterfly (51.29).

Riley VanMeter, Holland Christian sophomore – VanMeter carries the top seed in the butterfly (51.15) and backstroke (52.65) into this Finals and likely will swim on at least one of those highly-seeded relays as well.  

Grant Williams, East Grand Rapids senior – After jumping from 16th in diving as a sophomore to win the championship last winter, he enters this weekend after finishing second at his Regional (448.85) 10.5 points back of Hamilton senior Nolan DeJonge.

PHOTO: Swimmers launch last season at the start of the 400-yard freestyle relay at the LP Division 3 Finals. (Click to see more from

DeWitt's Thomas Blazes Swimming Path with Historic Finals Performance

By Steve Vedder
Special for

April 4, 2024

Aaron Thomas easily could have decided that swimming wasn't going to be part of his life.

Mid-MichiganThe DeWitt senior could've pieced together some combination of his other entertainment interests to fill his time. For instance, he could have spent more time with friends or immersed himself in video games. Or maybe devoted more time to a flirtation with golf or playing trumpet in the school band. Thomas also could have gained a head start on college and his ultimate goal of a degree in biomedical engineering.

Considering the lifetime of challenges he's faced in swimming, those seemed more tenable options.

Instead, Thomas chose the tougher path.

"My life is swimming," he said. "I've been in water so much, I've never looked back."

By "looking back," Thomas means ignoring a disability that would have turned many youngsters away from the pool. He was born without 65 percent of his pointer finger on his left hand and with a thumb that's only about 90-percent intact. The other three fingers stop at the top of the knuckle. As DeWitt coach Brock Delaney explains, much of a swimmer’s success comes from the power of fingers and subsequent strength in the hands – and without that combination, swimmers are at an immediate disadvantage.

But rather than letting those obstacles keep him high and dry, Thomas has excelled and finished this season with a historic first. He qualified for the Lower Peninsula Division 3 Finals in the 200-yard individual medley and finished 29th and also competed in the Paralympic 100 freestyle exhibition event and topped all divisions with a time of 54.07 seconds. In doing so, Thomas became the first competitor to swim that combination at a Finals meet.

Thomas additionally this winter made DeWitt's Century Club of swimmers who have amassed 100 points in a season for the second time, and he has earned National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association (NISCA) Paralympic All-American honors in the 200-yard freestyle (1:56.64), 200 IM (2:08.21), and 500 free (5:11.58). He also competes in Paralympic swimming as part of the Mid-Michigan Aquatics Club.

To some, the quest for those achievements likely would seem a long and difficult path. But to Thomas, it's business as usual. A disability? What disability, offers Thomas, whose ultimate goal is swimming in the 2028 Summer Paralympics in Los Angeles.

"I've always loved swimming," he said. "When I'm in the water, I never worry about anything. I just feel free."

Thomas posted the fastest time across all divisions in the Paralympic 100 freestyle exhibition at this season’s Finals. And Thomas has found a way to even the playing field, Delaney said.

"He's such a hard worker who has made up for a left-hand deficiency," Delaney said. "He's legit, a strong kid who loves to swim. "

But determination can take a swimmer only so far. Delaney said Thomas, classified as an S10 swimmer for Paralympic events, has developed physical strategies to increase his performance. In the backstroke, for instance, Thomas swims with his left hand underwater to help in propulsion. For speed, Thomas tries to keep his body on his "power side."

The rest, Delaney said, is simply heart.

"He moved here from Alma between his eighth grade and freshmen years," he said. "If not our hardest worker, he's in the top three. He's got something not all athletes have."

Thomas said one of the chief reasons he spends so much time around pools is the type of person he finds there. He describes people who combine encouragement and understanding with a will to compete despite any perceived physical shortcomings. What he's learned from them not only explains his swim career, but teaches valuable life lessons as well.

In fact, Thomas' career plans, beginning at Hope College in the fall, include securing a degree in biomedical engineering with an ultimate plan to help build prosthetics.

"Getting to know people in the prosthetic field really interests me," he said. "Swimming and prosthetics have been a nice tie-in with school. Prosthetics ties it all together for me."

Thomas said he can think of only a single instance where he questioned whether he should follow his love of swimming. But that thought quickly passed, and he's thrown himself into the sport ever since.

"I wouldn't trade my disability for the world," he said. "It's given me so many opportunities. The whole club and school thing and getting to the state meet never would have happened.”

Thomas will swim at Hope, and his goal is to qualify for the 200 IM at the Los Angeles Paralympic games. Thomas estimates he's within 15 seconds of qualifying in that meet's long course event.

"It's achievable," he said. "For sure it's doable."

Whether he makes it to Los Angeles or if his swim career quietly winds down, Thomas, who describes himself as competitive, said he still will have gained something for which everyone strives, athlete or not.

"Water has always been a safe spot for me," he said. "I think I've always used it as kind of a break from life. It helps clear my head.

“I've always been taught that you get out of work what you put into it. Work always pays off in the end. I've always remembered that.”

PHOTOS (Top) Aaron Thomas races for the DeWitt swimming & diving team. (Middle) Thomas posted the fastest time across all divisions in the Paralympic 100 freestyle exhibition at this season’s Finals. (Photos provided by the DeWitt swimming & diving program and Thomas family.)