High 5s - 2/28/12

February 28, 2012

Every Tuesday, Second Half honors 2-4 athletes and a team for its accomplishments during the current season.

Have a suggestion for a future High 5? Please offer suggestions by e-mail to [email protected]. Candidates often will have accomplished great things on the field of play -- but also will be recognized for other less obvious contributions to their teams, schools or the mission of high school athletics as a whole.

Alec Mooradian
Detroit Catholic Central senior

Mooradian won two matches by pin and a third by decision during last weekend's MHSAA Division 1 Team Finals as Detroit Catholic Central won its second championship in three seasons. This weekend, he can become the 16th wrestler in MHSAA history to claim a fourth Individual Finals championship. He's 44-2 this season and will wrestle this weekend at 152 pounds. His previous championships came at 112, 119 and 135. (He could also become the 17th to accomplish the four-peat, depending on when his championship match ends. St. Johns' Taylor Massa also is going for a fourth individual title.) Mooradian has signed to wrestle next season at Columbia.

Up next: "I plan on studying business/economics at Columbia, but I am not quite sure of what I want to do as an occupation."

I learned the most about wrestling from: "My coach Mitch Hancock. He also instilled in me a great work ethic that is much more important than anything else I have learned in this sport."

I look up to: "My father. He has made countless sacrifices to put me where I am at now in my life as a wrestler and as a person."

What I enjoy most about wrestling: "... is seeing the countless hours of work I put in pay off at the end of each season. I attribute the success I have had the last four years to working extremely hard and making good decisions on and off the mat."

Colin MacQuarrie

Sault Ste. Marie senior


MacQuarrie set two U.P. Finals records – he won the 50-yard freestyle in 20.85 seconds (breaking the former record of 22.18 set by his school’s Peter Stevens in 2003) and the 100 butterfly in 52.80 (former record was 53.62, set by his school’s Thomas Stabile in 1988). The previous butterfly record was the oldest in the U.P. Finals section of the MHSAA record book, and his 50 times qualified for All-America honors from the National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association. He also played football and runs track.

"I have a passion for swimming that goes back many years. I love the thrill of competition, watching my times improve makes me want to continue swimming."

Up next: MacQuarrie hopes to continue swimming and college level and plans to study aviation with a major in air traffic control management or aviation administration. "I hope to be an Air Traffic Controller and help ensure safety and efficiency for travelers."

I learned the most about swimming from: "I have had a handful of coaches, assistant coaches, and fellow swimmers throughout the years that have developed me into the swimmer I am today. ... Each person has played an important role."

I look up to: "My fellow teammates and other athletes at my school who push me to be my best and work hard with me in practice."

Before a race: "I prepare myself mentally by visualizing my race. I also listen to a lot of hip-hop music to pump myself up."

St. Johns wrestling

The Redwings get the slight edge over the other three MHSAA champions from the weekend because of their status as arguably the best team, regardless of division.

St. Johns defeated Lowell 41-18 in the Division 2 Final, and beat its three weekend opponents by a combined score of 161-35.

The Redwings haven't lost to an in-state opponent since 2010. They finished 25-1 this season, with that lone loss to Ohio powerhouse Lakewood St. Edward, and also beat eventual Division 1 champion Detroit Catholic Central earlier this winter. St. Johns should shine again this weekend, with 13 Individual Finals qualifiers including three reigning champions and two who finished runners-up at their weights in 2011.

DeWitt's Thomas Blazes Swimming Path with Historic Finals Performance

By Steve Vedder
Special for MHSAA.com

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.)