Dexter swim coach Mike McHugh said that his team felt like it had a “bull’s-eye” on its back all year.
Looking to three-peat as team champions, the heat was cranked up even more at Saturday’s Division 2 finals at Oakland University, but junior star Niklas Eberly and teammates delivered at every turn in what McHugh described as the “most stressful” title yet.
“That’s something that I strive for, to be a program my community can be proud of,” said a soaking wet McHugh, who jumped in the diving pool to celebrate with teammates after they received their state trophy.
“Knowing that we’ve now won three in a row, we’ve won four of the last seven, I think people around Dexter look at the men’s swim program and say, that’s a program I want to be a part of. We’re building a culture of success and we’re going to hopefully keep it going.”
Eberly led his team to victory with three first-place finishes, including the 200 freestyle relay along with Tanner Sharp, Casey Dolen and Stephen Sterlitz, who suffered a broken wrist at the beginning of the season. Eberly said he is looking forward to returning to school a champion once again.
“When you get to swim this well at a meet like this, it pretty much means everything,” Eberly said. “Dexter’s all about swimming. We don’t have a good football team, but we got a killer swim team, so it’s just great to bring home three in a row.”
Eberly’s most impressive individual performance came in the 100 butterfly, when he beat defending champion Michael Arpasi of Birmingham Seaholm, whom he’d faced a few times earlier this season.
“Every time I swam against him I was just picturing states and how badly I wanted to beat him,” Eberly said. “In practice every day, it was like, ‘All right, I want to be number one.’
Aprasi won the 50 freestyle and came in second and third in the 200 medley and 200 freestyle, respectively.
Dexter picked up a secondin the 400 freestyle relay with Eberly, Dolen, Clayton Kinnard and Alex Shehab, who picked up a second-place finish in the 100 backstroke. Dolen also finished third in the 100 freestyle.
Shehab was defeated by defending champion Warren De La Salle senior Zach Milke, who had three first-place finishes on the day.
Milke’s final and most meaningful win came in the 400 freestyle relay with a team of all seniors that included Hunter Broski, Ben Rancilio and Daniel Frederick. In last event, Milke finished 1.58 seconds faster than any other team anchor to come from behind and squeak out a photo finish over Dexter and Midland Dow.
“Like I told everybody, just gotta win it for the boys,” Milke said. “It’s our last meet together. That whole relay is seniors, so I don’t want to let them down. I don’t want to be the one that loses it for [them].”
Fraser sophomore Alexander Capizzo held onto both championships he won as a freshman, the 200 IM and 500 freestyle.
“I definitely felt a lot of pressure to defend my title,” Capizzo said. “It means a lot just to be able to come into high school and win two state championships your freshman year, and then come in your sophomore year and just win two more, holding your titles for both events. It’s amazing.”
Birmingham Groves picked up a win in the 200 medley relay with Robert Hagner, Patrick Seidel, Jackson Gugni and David Helton.
Groves finished third in team competition, one point ahead of De La Salle, with Gugni picking up second place in the 50 and 100 freestyle events along with Seidel’s third-place finish in the 200 IM.
Okemos sophomore Hunter Hollenbeck was this season’s top diver, beating Lakeview senior Levi Youmans by nearly 28 points to capture the state title.
Rounding out the first-place finishers was Grosse Pointe South senior Matthew Koueiter, who defeated Berkley senior Evan Carpenter and Temperance-Bedford senior Kyler Schreder in the 100 breastroke. Koueiter also had a third-place finish in the 200 medley relay with Ethan Briggs, Matthew Melican and Thomas Jogan.
Rochester Adams finished second in team points, achieving 13 top-eight finishes capped off by SooDong Kim’s third-place diving finish.
Ann Arbor Skyline avenged its second-place team finish in last year by topping Holland West Ottawa and Birmingham Brother Rice to capture the Division 1 championship at Eastern Michigan University.
Skyline finished first in the 400 freestyle relay, David Cleason won the 200 IM and 500 freestyle, and Michael MacGillivray won the 100 breaststroke. MacGillivray finished second in the 200 IM. Junior Kyle Tschannen took third in the 200 freestyle and 100 butterfly.
Forest Hills Central junior Henry Schutte won the 50 and 100 freestyle. West Ottawa took first in the 200 freestyle and 200 medley relays.
Holland Christian won the Division 3 championship at Saginaw Valley State University with a marginal victory over second- and third-place finishers East Grand Rapids and Spring Lake.
The Holland Christian relay teams captured three first-place finishes in as many races: the 200 freestyle, 200 medley and 400 freestyle. Ian MisKelley had first-place individual finishes in the 100 backstroke and 200 IM and Skyler Cook-Weeks took first in the 200 and 500 freestyle events. Riley VanMeter finished second in the 100 butterfly and 100 back and Luke Mason finished behind MisKelley in the 100 back for Holland Christian.
East Grand Rapids senior Christian Bart won the 50 freestyle and 100 backstroke. Byron Center senior Nolan Briggs won first place in the 100 butterfly and finished with two second-place finishes including the 200 freestyle relay. Spring Lake junior Cam Peel took first the 100 freestyle and St. John’s junior Cayden Petrak was Division 3’s top diver.
Nolan Bianchi is a freelance writer