South Lyon Soccer Standout Dives Back In for Big Pool Finish

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

March 10, 2022

Never mind that swimming isn't Josh Mason's best sport. Forget the fact that he left the sport after his freshman year to concentrate on his first love – soccer.

Well, Mason is back in the pool and he's making waves.

This weekend Mason and his South Lyon teammates will head to the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 Swimming & Diving Finals at the Holland Aquatic Center.

The prelims begin at noon Friday with the championship races starting at noon Saturday.

Mason, a 6-foot-5, 190-pound senior all-state center-back on the soccer team, qualified in the 50- and 100-yard freestyles, but he and coach John Burch have decided to forego his entry into the 100 in an attempt to enhance South Lyon's chances in the team competition. In addition to the 50, Mason will compete in all three relays – the 200 medley and two freestyle relays (200 and 400).

Opting out of the 100 suits Mason just fine. His best event is the 50, and he said “the last 25 (yards) of the 100 is a struggle for me. It takes everything I have to get through it.”

Whether it's in the pool, on the pitch or in the classroom, Mason never gives anything less than 100 percent. His drive to excel, he quickly admits, comes from his parents, Caroline and Chuck Mason.

Both competed in athletics; Caroline was a collegiate track athlete, and Chuck played soccer in high school.

South Lyon soccer“I started swimming when I was 3 or 4,” Mason said. “It was just one of those things where my parents wanted me to learn how to swim. I just really enjoyed it, and I kept coming back.”

His start in soccer also came before the age of 5 and Mason found a balance by competing in both, though soccer gradually became priority one.

“With my dad having played soccer, he's enjoyed being around and being a part of it,” Mason said.

“I always loved soccer. I have a love-hate relationship with swimming. It gets you into shape. (Swim) practices are hard. I use it for conditioning. It translates well to soccer.”

Mason competed in swimming because it was fun at an early age. When he entered high school, he realized he was pretty good at it – and so, that being the case, why not try out for the swim team?

Burch was there to welcome him with open arms.

“Josh? He's just an elite athlete,” Burch said. “He wants to succeed. He wants to excel. He's worked hard to get where he's at.”

Like Burch, South Lyon soccer coach Brian Elliott, who just completed his 10th season as the boys head coach, knew he had an outstanding player when Mason entered high school.

“He was a man among boys, even when he was a freshman,” Elliott said. “We knew he was something special. He was a three-year captain. That doesn't happen. He's our first for the boys program. He was one of our tallest players even when he was a freshman. He was thin then, but he's filled out since. As a center-back, the best ones are tall. And he has the agility of someone who's 5-8 or 5-9. Josh is somehow this physical phenom. The last two years he was able to physically dominate.

“He's a once-in-a-lifetime student-athlete for a coach.”   

But as a swimmer his freshman year, was Mason in over his head competing for one of the top, if not best, swim programs in the Lakes Valley Conference? He was eager to find out. 

Was he inexperienced? Absolutely. Did he show promise? No question.

South Lyon swimmingThere was one snag. His commitment to soccer.

“His mother and I had a conversation before the season,” Burch said. “She told me that he wouldn't be able to compete at the Finals because there was a big soccer tournament., When it came time for the Finals), I thought, I could really use Josh. I'm sure he wished he could have competed at the states. But soccer was his sport. I understand that.”

As Mason's involvement with soccer increased, his time for other outside activities shrunk. This led to his decision not to compete in swimming his sophomore and junior years. But a promise was made, behind closed doors.

Burch said Mason's teammates continued to recruit him to return. Mason had one stipulation – once his soccer season was over, and his verbal commitment was made to a university, he would be free to rejoin the swim team. In October, Mason committed to Michigan State – opening the door for his return.

“I always thought he'd come back,” Burch said.

It took Mason a few weeks to get back into shape in the pool, and when he did, he took off. At the conference meet he won both of his individual events and was part of two winning relay teams (200 and 400 freestyles) as South Lyon took home the title.

“I knew what kind of kid he is,” Burch said. “I had him in class in the eighth grade. When he came back this year, I didn't know what I'd get. I didn't know what to expect. Heck, he'd been away for two years. Maybe he'd go through the motions. But he's not that type. If he's going to do something, you know he's going to do it well. I knew I was getting a good kid, someone who will add to the team.

“Sure, he's accomplished a lot. At the same time, when he was a freshman, if you would have said he would accomplish all of this, I would say, yes.”

Regardless of how races finish this weekend, there's a happy ending. Mason, a remarkable student as well sporting a 4.1 GPA, has his scholarship. The South Lyon swim team welcomed a teammate back.  And Burch is sending another competitive team to the MHSAA Finals.

Tom Markowski primarily covered high school sports for the The Detroit News from 1984-2014, focusing on the Detroit area and contributing to statewide coverage of football and basketball. He also is a former correspondent and web content director for State Champs! Sports Network. Contact him at with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.

PHOTOS (Top) South Lyon’s Josh Mason shows his medal after winning the 50 freestyle at the Lakes Valley Conference championship meet. (Middle) Mason sends a shot toward the net during a game last fall. (Below) Mason launches at the start of the 100 freestyle league final. (Photos courtesy of the Mason family.)

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.)