It was a good weekend for Birmingham Brother Rice.
On Saturday, the same day its boys hockey team won the Division 2 state championship, the boys swimming and diving team won its fourth consecutive Division 1 state title in the finals meet at Oakland University.
“(The hockey team) won 7-0, and I’d almost feel it was closer than ours was,” Brother Rice swim coach Mike Venos joked.
With 238 points, Brother Rice was 26 points ahead of runner-up Ann Arbor Skyline. Saline (third, 202), Novi (fourth, 196) and Holland West Ottawa (fifth, 190) rounded out the top five.
“This was a total team effort,” Venos said.
Junior Alexander Margherio was the top finisher for Brother Rice. He swam on the winning 200 medley relay, took second in the 100 fly, won the 100 backstroke and was on the winning 400 freestyle relay — with a blur-like 44.4 second split as the relay’s anchor.
“I think he had the fastest split in the state in that,” Venos said
He said Margherio, one of seven juniors coming back next season, is one of the team’s top leaders.
“Obviously, he leads by example,” Venos said. “His work ethic is infectious. That’s one thing we have going for our team.
They know what they need to do. People follow his lead at practice. To be honest with you, he’s a very quiet leader. I compare him to Steve Yzerman. He doesn’t say much and when he does it resonates.
“He’s a great mentor for these kids. We do a few out of state meets every year. All the kids want a room with Alex. I have a sophomore on the team and I have an incoming eighth grader, and I can’t wait for them to be around him.”
In the 400 freestyle relay, Brother Rice was in fourth, a full body length behind Saline’s relay team — in the lead at the time — when Margherio got in the pool.
“It’s so nice when you have an athlete (and) you know they still have four lengths to go and you know the race is over,” Venos said. “It’s a very comforting feeling as a coach.”
He said Novi’s Camden Murphy and Holland West Ottawa’s Spencer Carle, both seniors, were the other two who drew the most attention going into the meet.
“All eyes are on him next year,” Venos said.
He said Saturday morning Margherio received an email from an unnamed college coach, who informed the junior that coaches from the program would be in attendance at the state meet to watch him swim.
Venos said he was worried initially about the unnecessary pressure that might put on his swimmer, but quickly realized it was for naught.
“I was a little concerned when I heard about the email,” Venos said. “After his first swim (I knew) he was focused. (I told him) ‘Let everybody else worry about you, you take care of yourself.’ He’s really taken that to heart.”
Venos said there are benefits to swimming. The opportunity exists for immediate mentoring for underclassmen. Brother Rice also boasts the second highest grade-point average for student-athletes at the school
“They know what it takes the minute they walk in this door,” Venos said. “There aren’t a whole lot of sports that can say that, so we’re kind of lucky. They know they’ve got to give back.
“These guys, they all swim on a lot of different year-round clubs. They take great pride in wearing their Brother Rice cap wherever they go. They understand that they’re under the microscope. They understand the responsibility they have not only in the pool, but being good people out in the street. That’s what we preach more so than having to come in and being a good part of this team.
“I’m more concerned about how great of a person they are than how they are as a swimmer. You can teach a good guy to be a great swimmer.”
Margherio said many of his friends are on the hockey team. They’re already talking about the day’s events.
“We’ve been all over Twitter, texting (and) group chats,” he said. “It’s great.”
Margherio said there’s still improving he can do, despite being a state champion each of his first three seasons.
“Next year, I’m just going to try harder and get more focused on being a leader,” he said. “There are a couple of us who are really outspoken and like to talk a lot. Everyone in the junior class works hard in the water. That’s our best quality.”
Dexter runs away with D2 title, De La Salle takes fifth
In the Division 2 state finals meet at Jones Natatorium on Eastern Michigan’s campus, Dexter took its second straight team championship with 284 points.
Ann Arbor Huron was the runner-up with 256.5. Birmingham Seaholm (third, 195.5), Birmingham Groves (fourth, 189) and Warren De La Salle (fifth, 187) rounded out the top five.
De La Salle had 13 swimmers earn all-state honors, and was paced by junior Zach Milke, who won the 100 backstroke in 24.32 seconds.
“He had a pretty solid swim,” De La Salle coach Jim Singelyn said of Milke, who was part of the team’s All-American 200 relay team a year ago. “He’s a stud. I can put him in anything. He’s a really good all-around swimmer.”
Cranbrook four-peats in D3
Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood won its third Division 3 championship in a row at the Holland Aquatic Center with 268 points, 13 points ahead of runner-up East Grand Rapids.
Holland Christian (third, 241.5), Chelsea (fourth, 227) and Spring Lake (fifth, 153) were in the top five.
Al Willman is a freelance writer