|Friday, December 26, 2003
Three teams vie for state title
By Matthew Goricki / Special to The Detroit News
The boys swimming and diving state title is up for grabs this season.
Three team have a legitimate chance to win it in March. Holland is ranked No. 1 by the Michigan Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association, followed by Ann Arbor Pioneer and Birmingham Brother Rice.
Pioneer has won the last two Division 1 titles and there's a good chance Coach Denny Hill's team will make it three straight. Pioneer showed its potential by finishing first in the Cereal Bowl Relays on Dec. 7. Among the teams Pioneer defeated was Brother Rice, which finished third at last season's state meet.
"We're gonna be a formidable team," Hill said. "I'm excited about this season."
Holland, which finished runner-up at the state meet, hopes to contend again this season. Holland has 45 players on its team, an improvement over last season. A couple of talented freshmen and a foreign-exchange student might have an impact this season.
"It is gonna be an extremely fast state meet," Holland Coach Jon Shears said. "If all three teams stay healthy, it's gonna be a battle. It would be a great year to finish my 10th year (coaching) swimming well and staying healthy.
"We'll try to maintain the positive direction we started last year and keep our energy going. We have a huge team and the guys are focused. We want to stay where we were (last season)."
Brother Rice, with 43 swimmers and six divers, might have the most depth in the state.
"We have more depth than name swimmers," Brother Rice Coach Mike Venos said. "It makes us pretty unique. We have a good corps of seniors. We've been pretty successful because we preach a whole lot of team."
Top 10 teams
1. Holland: Holland added 15 swimmers this season, including top freshmen Jordan Schrotenboer and Mark Waterstone. Top swimmers returning include senior captains Evan Kobes and Grant Burtch and sophomore Adam DeJong.
2. Ann Arbor Pioneer: A lot of talent graduated from last season's championship team. Still, Pioneer has 52 swimmers, led by senior captains Wade Engers and Craig Tfister. Sho Koba from Japan is Pioneer's biggest addition.
3. Birmingham Brother Rice: Brother Rice will relay on depth. Steve Schoenhals is one of the team's best swimmers.
4. Alma: Alma is the top team and defending champion in Division 2. Eric Biebuyck and Dan Gardner are among its top swimmers.
5. Holland West Ottawa: Matt Gauss is Ottawa's top swimmer, finishing seventh in the 200-yard freestyle at the state meet. Ottawa finished fifth in Division 1 last year.
6. Jenison: Jenison has one of the top swimmers in the state in senior Nick Walkotten. Walkotten and teammate Nick Fulmer helped lead Jenison into the top five last year in the Division 1 meet.
7. Birmingham Groves: Groves rebuilds with perhaps the most freshmen talent in the state. Senior Scott Thompson is the team's top swimmer, finishing second in the 200 individual medley last year. Groves could challenge Alma for the state title in Division 2.
8. Bloomfield Hills Lahser: Lahser has possibly the top freestyle relay teams in Division 2. John Henry Berg, Todd McCullough and Paul Ellis are among the top swimmers in Division 2.
9. Birmingham Seaholm: Seaholm has one of the top swimmers in Division 2 in junior Dan Priestly. Seaholm has solid freestyle relay teams and might challenge Alma, Groves, and Lahser for a top-three finish in Division 2.
10. Grand Blanc: Grand Blanc is led by talented senior Steve Bowling, who swims freestyle.
Top 10 swimmers
1. Nick Walkotten, Jenison: Walkotten won the 200 individual medley and 100 butterfly at the Division 1 meet as a junior. He is one of the top swimmers in the nation.
2. Sho Koba, Ann Arbor Pioneer: Koba might be the most valuable addition to any team in the state. Koba, a junior from Japan, is the early favorite to win the 100 and 200 freestyle races at the state meet.
3. Evan Kobes, Holland: Kobes won the 100 backstroke and finished fourth in the 100 freestyle at the Division 1 meet. He is the top backstroke swimmer in the state.
4. Dan Priestly, Birmingham Seaholm: Priestly could be the top swimmer in the state, even though he competes for a Division 2 school. Priestly, a junior, won the 50 and 100 freestyle races at the state meet and had better times than the Division 1 winners in both events.
5. Steve Bowling, Grand Blanc: Bowling finished second at the Division 1 meet in the 200 and 500 freestyle races.
6. Grant Burtch, Holland: Burtch won the 100 breaststroke at the Division 1 meet. He is considered the best breaststroke swimmer in the state.
7. Adam DeJong, Holland: As a freshman on a deep team, DeJong finished fourth in the 500 freestyle and 10th in the 200 freestyle at the Division 1 meet. DeJong, Kobes, and Burtch form the top trio in the state for Holland.
8. Steve Schoenhals, Birmingham Brother Rice: Schoenhals might be the best swimmer on a very deep team. He finished fifth in the 100 backstroke and ninth in the 200 individual medley at the Division 1 meet.
9. Steve Weinberg, Ann Arbor Huron: Weinberg, a junior, is one of the top backstroke swimmers in the state and he could challenge Kobes for the 100 backstroke title. He finished second at the Division 1 meet last season.
10. Eric Biebuyck, Alma: Only Walkotten finished with a better time in the 200 individual medley at the Division 2 meet. He is the top swimmer for Alma.
Matthew Goricki is a free-lance writer.