Rice Wins Close Race to 4th Straight Title

March 11, 2017

By Dan Stickradt
Special for Second Half

ROCHESTER HILLS — High expectations. 

Attending a prestigious school such as Birmingham Brother Rice, where academics and athletics success stories are the norm and somewhat expected, Andrew Biskup understands the pressures that came with the tradition-rich territory. 

Biskup and his classmates exceeded those expectations during their prep careers at Brother Rice, and that all culminated Saturday at Oakland University. 

The Warriors pulled away from a tight field over the final couple of events to capture their fourth consecutive MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 Finals championship in boys swimming & diving. 

“We had guys that swam at Rice 10 years ago. This shows how deep our tradition really goes and the expectations we have here,” said Biskup. “I knew we could be big, but we definitely exceeded my expectations of what I thought could be possible. We’ve always had a great program here at Rice, and it’s great to carry on our tradition.”

Top-ranked and senior-laden Rice collected 238 points to edge Ann Arbor Skyline (212), Saline (202), Novi (196) and Holland West Ottawa (190) in a field where just 48 points separated the top five teams.

Zeeland Unified (177), Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (113), Northville (105), Ann Arbor Pioneer (99) and Grandville (98) rounded out the top 10. A total of 35 schools scored points.

Brother Rice, which features 14 seniors and eight who scored points at the Finals, joined some elite company with the fourth straight title. The Warriors became only the ninth program in MHSAA lore to win at least four straight Finals championships.

“I don't think they understand the magnitude of what they have accomplished because they are so grounded,” offered veteran coach Mike Venos. “They are a humble group of kids that work so hard. Winning four straight titles, in any sport, is extremely difficult.” 

East Grand Rapids holds the record of 15 straight Class B-C-D crowns from 1948-1962. Bloomfield Hills Andover won eight straight (1990-97), EGR also completed seven straight (1976-82), Battle Creek Central seven consecutive (1931-37), Ann Arbor Pioneer six straight (1977-82), Ann Arbor University High five straight (1942-46), Brother Rice five straight (1994-98), Saline four straight (2010-13) and now Rice the past four Lower Peninsula Division 1 championship meets. 

Additionally, Marquette captured 12 straight crowns in the Upper Peninsula tournament (1991-2002). 

This marked Rice’s 11th MHSAA title overall dating back to 1994, and sixth with Venos as head coach. Venos also recorded a Finals runner-up as head coach at Rice and served as assistant for two title teams at Bloomfield Hills Andover.

Rice is now fourth on the all-time list with its 11 total MHSAA Finals championships in boys swim and dive. Only East Grand Rapids (25), Ann Arbor Pioneer (18) and Battle Creek Central (16) have more in the sport.

Brother Rice opened the day with a win in the 200-yard medley relay, as Mason Wilczewski, Biskup, Alex Margherio and Jack Grady joined forces for a 1:31.72 clocking.

Margherio, a junior, came back to win the 100 backstroke, in 48.46 seconds. Grady, Patrick Olmstead, Wilczewski and Margherio capped the meet with a victory in the 400 freestyle relay in 3:04.25.

“This is just a great feeling. This team is so close,” said Margherio. “We have a great senior class — 14 of them and eight that scored — and some good (underclassmen). This is what our goal was since last year.”

Rice held the lead entering the final event and just needed a top-eight finish to hold onto the lead.

“I knew we had the lead. I just wanted us to time our (exchanges right and not disqualify),” said Venos. “I knew if we placed high, we’d win the meet. They came back and actually won the relay.”

Novi’s Camden Murphy won the 200 individual medley (1:48.99) and 100 butterfly (46.63), the latter in a new MHSAA Division 1 and All-Division Finals record. Headed to the University of Georgia, Murphy won two events and placed on two top-eight relays (second in the 200 medley relay and fifth in the 400 freestyle relay).

“The butterfly has always been my favorite event, so to finally win it my senior year is incredible,” said Murphy. “(The Oakland County meet) put me in a really good place, and that kind of gave me some extra confidence that I carried over the rest of the season into today.” 

Holland West Ottawa’s Spencer Carl defended his crowns in the 200 freestyle (1:37.08) and 500 freestyle (4:26.89).

“Last year winning the 200 free wasn't expected. I won by .01 last year. This year I was expected to go out and defend it. I don't think I had my best race. It didn't go exactly how I wanted it to, but I still won,” Carl said. “I wanted to go out a state champion again, and that was my ultimate goal.”

Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central sophomore Henry Schutte won the 50 freestyle (20.38) by less than three tenths of a second. Then he came back to win the 100 freestyle (45.27).

“I was runner-up in the 50 free last season, so I thought I’d have a chance this season,” noted Schutte. “I thought I had a great race. I wasn't sure how it would turn out being a sophomore. I just love the sport and love to (compete).”

Saline’s foursome of Matt Lau, Josh Willwerth, Greg Winning and Daniel Keith won the 200-yard freestyle relay in 1:25.01, with Keith pumping his first after he surged past Brother Rice down the stretch. He credited hard work coupled with divine influence for the Hornets’ relay win.

Lau also touched first in the 100 breaststroke (56.37).

“We knew we’d have a chance in that relay. It was wide open and we pulled it off,” said Keith. “It really boils down to us stepping up and it’s all to the glory of God. He’s the one who decides who wins these races. We’re thankful to him that we won a relay state championship like some of the other great Saline swimmers before us.”

Skyline sophomore Henry Schirmer captured the one-meter diving event with 470.15 points, ahead of Lake Orion freshman Alexander Brent (416.55 points).

The Eagles posted their highest D-1 Finals finish and did so with only one senior who scored points.

“I was new this year, and we asked the boys to change everything. At the beginning of the season we never anticipated this,” said first-year Skyline coach Maureen Isaac. “They came a long ways this season with such a young team. I don't think anyone would have thought we’d take second here with (mostly underclassmen). We had a senior place 15th in one event and swim on one of our relays. Everyone else will be back next year.” 

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PHOTOS: (Top) Swimmers launch during Saturday's Division 1 Finals at Oakland University. (Middle) Birmingham Brother Rice stands on the champion’s podium with its latest trophy. (Click to see more at HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)

Picking Up Seconds All Over, Cranbrook Picks Up Points to Climb Podium

By Jason Schmitt
Special for MHSAA.com

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.)