Spring Lake Takes Lead in Pool, Community

February 12, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The Spring Lake boys swimming and diving team has taken a turn toward the elite over the last two seasons, rising from average to one of the best on the west side of Michigan and in its division statewide.

And Lakers over the last two seasons have matched their athletic prowess with a notable outside-the-pool contribution as well, spearheaded by one of its captains.

Spring Lake is the Applebee’s Team of the Month for January after nearly completing one of the most impressive regular seasons in Lower Peninsula Division 3 this winter, and also for an athlete-driven effort that has raised nearly $8,000 over two years to provide services to local cancer patients.

The Lakers finished 11-3-1 in dual meets and rank No. 9 in LP Division 3 after starting this season outside the top 10, with wins over No. 4 Holland Christian, No. 5 Grand Rapids Christian and No. 6 Hamilton twice. Spring Lake also beat LP Division 1 honorable mention Grand Haven for only the third time in program history and first time in at least four seasons – and the team’s losses were to LPD1 No. 6 Zeeland and LPD1 honorable mentions Byron Center and Grandville.

“Three years ago, we had a losing dual meet record. We were losing to teams, a lot of Division 3 teams, and those teams we’ve beaten (the last two seasons),” said Spring Lake coach Jason Lintjer, a three-time MHSAA champion for Grand Haven at 2008 who went on to swim at Michigan State University. “We’re definitely moving in the right direction. We’re getting better year by year.”

The Lakers have also won three invitationals this season: their own, at Ludington and at Bridgman, another honorable mention in LP Division 1. The team’s relays are especially strong – the 200 freestyle relay of Cam Peel, Jacob Weesies, Grant Stille and Evan Wujcik ranks sixth in LPD3 with a top time of 1:31.30, and the 200 medley relay of Peel, Marshall Bailey, Drew Fogel and Weesies is tied for sixth with a top time of 1:43.04. The 400 freestyle relay of Charlie Slajus, Peel, Keon Rick and Fogel is eighth in LPD3 at 3:27.13. All three have qualified for the MHSAA LPD3 Finals beginning March 11 at Eastern Michigan University.

But more than an interesting sidenote is how many athletes could step into those relays and contribute. Peel has the fastest 200 free split, but team’s seventh-fastest swimmer in that relay has been only 1.71 seconds slower. The difference in speed between Slajus’ team-leading split in the 400 free and seventh fastest is only 1.58 seconds.

“The reason we’ve won so much is we’re so deep. Our depth is better than just about every team in every division," Lintjer said. "We don’t have state championship type of swimmers, but we might make a run at a relay because we have four swimmers who can contribute.”

All of this points to Spring Lake as a team on the rise statewide. But adding to these accomplishments has been the work to raise money to assist those fighting cancer, initiated by Rick, a senior.

He watched cancer’s effects first-hand as it took the health of his grandmother, who died in 2015. According to a Grand Haven Tribune report, Rick followed the lead of his brother, who had previously raised a donation to Bluebird Cancer Retreats, which provides programming including counseling for those living with cancer, survivors, and other loved ones and caregivers.

With just a few weeks of work in 2015, Rick raised more than $3,000 for those wishing to take part in Bluebird’s retreats. This year, he raised more than $4,200 with the help of his teammates, coaches and Manistee’s team during their Jan. 21 meet, a “Swim for Hope.”

Rick received donations door-to-door, from businesses and families, Lintjer said, and from Manistee’s program and community as well. Donors could sponsor specific events of the meet or lanes of Spring Lake's pool. Many made donations in the names of loved ones, and those names scrolled on the scoreboard throughout the meet.

In addition to physically organizing most of the meet festivities, Rick directed the effort, instructing teammates who took part as well.

“People are probably surprised he raised $4,000, but I wasn’t very surprised,” Lintjer said. “He’s one our team captains, and pretty much anything he does, he does a great job.”

Spring Lake’s swimming and diving team has 23 athletes this season and has set two pool records, one at home and one at Bridgman. The Lakers will look to repeat as Coastal Conference champions when they host the league meet Feb. 26-27.

Past Teams of the Month, 2015-16:
December: Saginaw Heritage girls basketball – Report
November: Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard volleyball – Report
October: Benton Harbor football – Report

September: Mason and Okemos boys soccer – Report

PHOTOS: (Top) Spring Lake's Eric Schock swims the butterfly during a meet this season. (Middle) Spring Lake athletes wave to the crowd with trophy in hand. (Photos courtesy of the Schock and Rick families). 

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.)