Seaholm Shows Full Power of Team in Title Surge

By Steve Vedder
Special for

March 27, 2021

JENISON – It seems a stretch to compare winning a state swimming & diving championship with an elephant, but it makes perfect sense to Tom Wyllie.

In fact, that's how Wyllie explains how his deep Birmingham Seaholm team won Saturday's Lower Peninsula Division 2 meet despite gaining only one first place in an event. Seaholm finished with 267.5 points to 222 for runner-up Grosse Pointe South.

"We have a lot of depth, and it's a team sport," said Wyllie, whose Maples won their fourth team title in 10 years. "I've said this a lot to the kids over the years, that when it looks like there is an obstacle, I ask them 'How do you eat an elephant?' The answer is you take one bite at a time. Everyone took a big bite of the elephant today. It was truly about a team effort and camaraderie."

Detroit U-D Jesuit was third with 180 points, Ann Arbor Skyline fourth with 179 and Dexter fifth with 153.

Seaholm's only first place actually came on Friday when Kam Liberman won the diving with a score of 523.15. One of 12 seniors on the team, Liberman agreed with Wyllie that depth is directly tied to the team's success.

"It's a team sport, it's not about individuals. We have lots of depth, and I think we swam our best of the season. Everyone made a lot of drops in time," said Liberman, who was seeded No. 1. "My goal was to hold out. The No. 2 guy was never far away, and I just wanted to stay consistent."

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The next highest Seaholm individual placer was Tom Girdler with a second in the 100 breaststroke while Cami Wilson was third in the 100 butterfly. The 200 and 400 free relays both took thirds.

Wyllie said his present team differed from last year's club which would have been in the hunt for a title if not for the interruption of the COVID outbreak.

"Last year we would have been happy being in the top three," he said. "Farmington was a beast last year, and we expected them to take the title."

Jesuit's Drew Collins won the 100 backstroke (49.18) while teammate Charlie Bruce won the 50 free (20.72). The 200 medley relay team also won (1:32.93).

Bruce, who was seeded eighth, said he couldn't have done any better.

"I was a little nervous, but I had a great taper and dropped a lot of time," he said. "It was pretty much the best I could do."

Senior Clayton Kinnard of Dexter won the 200 free (1:39.72) after taking last season off. He was a top-16 Finals placer as a freshman and sophomore in the 200 individual medley and 100 backstroke before he opted not to compete last winter.

"I used to put pressure on myself to do good; people expected me to do well," he said. "I stopped swimming because I felt like I was swimming for other people. But my friends wanted me to do it this year for fun, and I did have a lot of fun. It's the most fun I've ever had. I just let loose, and it was the best I've ever swam. I'm proud of this."

Forest Hills Central senior Avery LeTourneau won the 100 butterfly (49.85). He previously had finished eighth in the butterfly as a sophomore. He was seeded fourth this time, but thought a title was possible.

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"I was looking to win, I thought I definitely had a shot. I thought I would be right there," said LeTourneau, who said not being able to compete for a title a year ago was disappointing but a motivator. "I was walking out of school when I found out things were cancelled. We had worked hard for months. Now it feels like we've come full circle. It was 100 percent worth the wait because this is awesome. It was great to see it through."

Saturday’s other first places included Farmington winning the 400 relay (3:07.59) and Grosse Pointe South winning the 200 free relay (1:25.24).

Jack Hamilton of Berkley won the 200 individual medley (1:50.90), Gianni Carlino of Grosse Pointe North took first in the 500 free (4:32.94), Trevor Jones of Farmington topped the 100 free and Michael Grover of Byron Center won the 100 breaststroke (55.39).

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PHOTOS: (Top) Birmingham Seaholm’s Tom Girdler swims to a runner-up finish in the breaststroke Saturday. (Middle) Byron Center’s Michael Grover, below, works to hold off Dexter’s Clayton Kinnard in the breaststroke. (Below) Saginaw Heritage’s Andrew Gladki also swims the breaststroke at Jenison High School. (Click for more from


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.)