SAGINAW – While Dexter has captured state championships in swimming before, winning Saturday’s title is sure to leave a permanent mark on coach Michael McHugh.
“Our top guys are all seniors, and to send these guys out with a championship means so much; they’ve worked so hard, and they deserve it,” McHugh said after Dexter won its first title since 2012 at Saginaw Valley State University.
“We won the last one when they were eighth-graders, so I made them a deal: If they won a state championship in their four years, I had to get a tattoo,” he said. “I’m going to get the Dreadnaught logo, and I’m proud to get it. I have two already — I’ve got a swimmer, and Falcon head for Bowling Green — but this will be the sweetest one, because it’s permanent.”
“Of course, he’s got to get the tattoo — it’s going to be fun,” senior Robbie Zofchak said. “It will be a boat, and it will have our year on it.”
This was definitely Dexter’s year — the Dreadnaughts outscored the field with 284 points, ahead of Warren De La Salle (266), Birmingham Seaholm (211), Battle Creek Lakeview (205), Birmingham Groves (187), Midland Dow (164) and Grosse Pointe South (153).
Zofchak, who has signed with the University of Michigan and will compete in the U.S. Olympic trials this summer, helped in a big way, winning individual titles in the 200 freestyle (1:38.53) and backstroke (a Division 2-record 49.26).
He also anchored the 400 freestyle relay (3:07.80), which finished as runner-up to Birmingham Seaholm (3:05.48), but more importantly, prevented De La Salle from winning the meet. Dexter led much of the afternoon, but the Pilots had pulled to within 16 points going into the final relay.
Dexter senior Jimmy Morgan said the team was instructed to have “safe starts” and “finish the race” without getting disqualified in order to preserve the victory.
“De La Salle’s a good team. I knew they’d give us everything we got, and our guys came through,” McHugh said. “We knew we had to do our work early; in the 200, the 500, the IM, and we did. We knew we had to build a lead, and these guys came through and did it.”
The 1-2-8 finish from Zofchak, Matt Bergdolt and David Merz in the 200 freestyle sent Dexter on its way, and the Dreadnaughts placed five in the 500, led by Alex Janosi’s runner up finish. Dexter scored in every event but one.
“Coming into high school, we watched all those guys win states and saw how much of a team effort it was and how together everybody was, and we all thought, yeah, we want that,” Zofchak said. “Basically, the past four years we’ve been aspiring to this moment, to try to win ourselves a state title together as a team.”
De La Salle got its first two event champions in school history, as P.J. Desmet, Jack Kucharczyk, Mitch Livingston and Zach Milke won the medley relay (1:33,83), while Desmet came back later to win the butterfly (51.21), despite battling flu symptoms. The Pilots’ runner-up team finish matches the team’s previous best, which came in the 1972 Class B-C-D competition.
“We wanted to win, of course, but on paper we were down a lot more, so we battled,” Coach James Singelyn said. “If a couple other things go our way, we’d be walking away with it. But still, second is good for a team with no pool; that’s pretty impressive.”
There were two double event-winners: Grosse Pointe South’s Jacob Montague (Michigan), in the individual medley (1:47.40) and the breaststroke (a division-record 53.93); and Midland Dow’s Nehemiah Mork (MSU), in the 50 and 100 sprints (20.83 and 45.43).
“There are so many fast guys out there,” Mork said. “I’m happy with how I did, got individual state titles; it’s my best time in the 100 free and it’s right on my best time in the 50, and I’m sure I got my name out there just fine.”
DIVISION 3 AT EASTERN MICHIGAN: East Grand Rapids won eight of the 12 events, but Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook’s depth enabled the Cranes to outscore East, 352-315, to win their third consecutive title. Chelsea (195), Holland Christian (188) and Hamilton (127) also were in the top five. Giorgio DelGrosso won the breaststroke in a Division 3-record 55.92. The Pioneers’ Andy MacGregor won the 100 and 200 freestyles and anchored the winning 200 and 400 free relays. Teammate Nathan Hein won the 50 free and the butterfly.
DIVISION 1 AT HOLLAND: Birmingham Brother Rice captured its third title in a row, and ninth in school history, by winning two relays and one individual event. Drew Grady won the breaststroke in 55.18, and the Warriors were first to the finish in the medley (1:31.55) and 400 free (3:05.94) relays. Brother Rice totaled 313 points, ahead of Saline (234), Zeeland (211), Ann Arbor Skyline (193) and Ann Arbor Pioneer (182). Monroe’s Cameron Craig set two division records in winning the individual medley (1:45.42) and backstroke (47.33). Holland West Ottawa’s Spencer Carl won the butterfly (48.12) and the 200 freestyle (a division-record 1:37.15).