Skyline Star Power Leads Championship Run with 6 Event Wins

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

March 12, 2022

ROCHESTER – Sometimes swim & dive teams ride depth and lots of top-5 finishes to state titles, while other times they rely on star power and plenty of first-place finishes. 

The Ann Arbor Skyline boys team abided by the latter at Saturday’s Lower Peninsula Division 2 Finals at Oakland University. 

Of the 12 events held, Skyline finished first in six of them, riding all those first-place points to its first Finals title since it won the Division 1 crown in 2018.

Skyline finished with 291 points, ahead of runner-up Detroit U-D Jesuit’s total of 266.

Grosse Pointe South was third with 238 points. 

Leading the way for Skyline was senior Even McKelvey, who had a hand in four of those first-place finishes.

“Winning with the boys is so much more fun than individually,” McKelvey said. “As Bo Schembechler said, ‘The team, the team, the team.’ That’s how we ran all season.”

McKelvey finished first in the 200-yard freestyle in a time of 1:39.21, and then won the 100 freestyle ahead of senior teammate Matthew Lee in a time of 44.89.

The team of McKelvey, junior Jack Stanton, senior Ben Kurniawan and Lee then set an LPD2 Finals record in the 200 freestyle relay with a time of 1:23.72.

To finish the meet off, in the 400 freestyle relay, the team of McKelvey, sophomore Lucas Caswell, Kurniawan and Lee won in a time of 3:05.63. 

The individual wins were quite a jump from last year for McKelvey, who was seventh in the 100 freestyle and fifth in the 200 freestyle as a junior.

“Just sprinting it all out and doing the best I could do,” McKelvey said. “I race (good swimmers) every day in practice, so that’s the vision I had in my mind. Just race them like I do in practice.”

Detroit U-D Jesuit swimmingKurniawan and Lee also got in the act individually, with Lee winning the 50 freestyle in a time of 20.63 and Kurniawan capturing the 100 butterfly in a time of 49.31.

“Our star power brought along the rest of the team,” Skyline coach Maureen Murett said. “The reason we were so good this year is because we had tremendous leadership from those guys. It wasn’t good enough for them that they were really good or that they were succeeding. All season long, they were the ones who brought the young guys along. That made the difference. Everybody had a role.”

While Skyline was jubilant over winning another championship trophy, there was a sense of pride for U-D Jesuit claiming the runner-up trophy because it was the best finish in program history. 

Senior Drew Collins won the 200 individual medley with a time of 1:50.21, while senior Christian Bouchillon won the 100 backstroke in a time of 49.50 to lead the Cubs.

“Obviously it’s hard for the kids not to focus on the big No. 1. But they did phenomenal and swam their hearts out,” U-D Jesuit coach Drew Edson said. “It’s the best our school has ever done, and they’re happy. We’re going to stay up top for a long time, I’ll tell you that.”

Grosse Pointe South’s 200 medley relay team of junior Keiran Rahmaan, senior Drew Vandeputte, senior Jake Vallan and senior Tucker Briggs set meet record with a winning time of 1:31.85. 

Other individual winners were Grosse Pointe South junior Logan Hepner in diving with 509.70 points, Walled Lake Northern junior Sean Diffenderfer in the 500 freestyle in a time of 4:35.67 and Byron Center senior Michael Grovers in the 100 breaststroke in a time of 54.54. 

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) An Ann Arbor Skyline swimmer begins his leg of the 200 freestyle relay. (Middle) Detroit U-D Jesuit's Drew Collins swims the winning 200 IM. (Click for 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.)