What to watch in boys swimming and diving championships

Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood senior captains Giorgio Guttilla, Mac Woodbury and Eric Youshal hope to lead the Cranes to their fourth consecutive Division 3 state championship this weekend at the Holland Aquatic Center.

Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood senior captains Giorgio Guttilla, Mac Woodbury and Eric Youshal hope to lead the Cranes to their fourth consecutive Division 3 state championship this weekend at the Holland Aquatic Center.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Lower Peninsula boys’ swimming and diving championships take place Friday and Saturday at Oakland University (Division 1), Eastern Michigan University (Division 2) and the Holland Aquatic Center (Division 3). Free Press special writer Wright Wilson previews the three competitions:


Get to the pool early and find a good seat. The MHSAA reports that total attendance at the 2016 finals increased by 14.6 percent over the prior year, outpacing all other sports but football and boys’ basketball (whose venues are much larger). The sessions start at noon each day, but hardcore fans show up to secure the best views when the doors open at 9:30 a.m.


Will you recognize your favorite swimmer? That might be tricky, as serious competitors often shave their heads – as well as arms, legs, chests and even backs – to eliminate the drag caused by body hair. Teams even hold “shave parties” the week of the state meet. Does it pay off? Sometimes it does. Last year’s Division 1 200-yard freestyle was decided by .01 seconds, a razor-thin margin.


Many of last year’s trophy-winners are among the favorites this weekend. In Division 1, Birmingham Brother Rice is favored to win its fourth straight title. Division 3 could see a fourth consecutive championship from neighboring Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood, which shares the coaches’ poll’s top ranking with East Grand Rapids. Division 2 is a toss-up between Ann Arbor Huron, Birmingham Groves and last year’s champion, Dexter.


East Grand Rapids won eight of the 12 events last year, and two Pioneers are back to defend titles: junior Christian Bart (1:50.61/individual medley) and senior Grant Williams (443.45 points/diving). Joining them is Holland Christian junior Skyler Cook-Weeks (a Division 3-record 4:31.48/500 freestyle). In Division 2, the lone returning champion is Rochester Adams sophomore Graham Miotke (4:35.64/500 freestyle).


In Division 1, Saline senior Dakota Hurbis (516.80/diving) hopes to retain his 2016 crown, and he’s joined by a defending champion in two events: Holland West Ottawa senior Spencer Carl (1:37.15/200 free and a Division 1-record 48.12/butterfly). In addition, Brother Rice returns the four members of its winning 400 free relay: Jake Zalinski, Patrick Olmstead, Mason Wilczewski and Alex Margherio.


Other swimmers who could win their first state titles: Novi senior Camden Murphy (butterfly, individual medley), West Ottawa sophomore Derek Maas (backstroke), Zeeland senior Gabriel Trevino (50 free, 100 free), Fraser freshman Alexander Capizzo (500 free), Midland Dow junior Jacob Krzciok (50 free, 100 free) and Detroit Catholic Central junior Jon Lee (breaststroke). Also, Chelsea senior Joey Mangner won the 50 free two years ago but was disqualified last year.


They don’t call traveling, holding or cross-checking, but swimming officials look for specific infractions, the most common being false starts or early takeoffs during relays. Those guilty of violations are disqualified from their event, and that could prove fatal to a team with championship aspirations. East Grand Rapids suffered a DQ in a relay last year and finished as Division 3’s runner-up.


East Grand Rapids holds the distinction of winning the most state swim titles with 25, including a state-record 15 in a row from 1948-62. (Marquette also has won 25, exclusively against Upper Peninsula competition.) Next in line are Ann Arbor Pioneer (18 titles), and Battle Creek Central (16). Brother Rice is fourth on the list – their next title would be No. 11.


Who will be the next Cameron Craig? The 2016 Monroe High graduate set all-class records last year in the individual medley (1:45.42), backstroke (47.33), and 100 freestyle (a 43.55 relay split, which can count as a record if executed on the lead leg). Now a freshman at Arizona State University, Craig broke the Pac-12 record in the 200 freestyle last Saturday, going 1:31.71 – the eighth-fastest all-time mark.


You won’t see any swimmers from the Upper Peninsula competing this weekend – they had a separate championship meet Feb. 17-18, with the Marquette boys team winning its fourth straight title, and the Houghton girls emerging victorious. Sault Ste. Marie freshman Andrew Innerebner won the 200 free by 11 seconds, setting an Upper Peninsula record of 1:46.36. He also won the 100 free (49.55).

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