2005. 1.11 Ann Arbor News

Chelsea aims to defy expectations 
Sunday, January 11, 2005
News Sports Reporter 

When Dave Jolly peruses the Michigan high school swimming rankings, his Chelsea program is nowhere to be found. 

There was no preseason talk of where the Bulldogs could finish in this spring's state championships. 

And that's fine with Jolly. 

"That way you can work on the things you want to and not the things you feel like you have to," Jolly said. 

But don't sell Jolly's up-and-coming program short. In the Bulldogs' first two meets of the season, several swimmers - led by senior Andy Kellogg - have posted career-best times, and in relays, in which Chelsea has traditionally struggled, there are now solid finishes. 

"I've been pleasantly surprised," Jolly says. "I've seen some head-turning among my colleagues, and so that's a good feeling." 

Here's a closer look at the area's teams entering this season: 


Huron River Rats 

Key returners: Steve Weinberg (senior, 100 backstroke, 100 butterfly), Zach Czapla (sr., freestyle), Jung-Ho Kim (junior, 200 individual medley), Alex McKenzie (sophomore, 100 butterfly), Paul Dorsey (jr.,diving) 

Outlook: The Rats' roster includes 47 swimmers - 15 more than last year, providing coach Chris Burnett with the kind of depth that can help Huron find success. 

Burnett says: "The more guys you have, the more competitive your team is going to be and the more competitive you're going to be in competition." 

Greenhills Gryphons 

Key returners: Dan Acton (sr., freestyle), Tom Crone (sr., 100 breaststroke), Carolyn DeChants (sr., 100 backstroke) 

Outlook: Coach Kate Crone inherits a co-ed team that will struggle to fill out a meet line-up, something that will require several swimmers to fill several roles. 

Crone says: "The kids just have a really good attitude and the girls do a good job with keeping up with the boys." 



Brighton Bulldogs 

Key returners: Dan Hedger (200 individual medley), Steve Hedger (freestyle), Zach Carron (500 freestyle), Doug Windel (sprint freestyle), Jeff Pethoud (100 breaststroke), Kelly Todd (diving) 

Outlook: The Bulldogs are the deepest team in the KVC with 26 swimmers and four divers. 

Coach Sean Hickman says: "We have five or six guys for three varsity spots in each event. That competition usually brings out good swims and good times." 

Hartland - Howell - Fowlerville 

Key returners: Sam Delado (breaststroke), Boyd Lietchenberg (200 IM, 100 backstroke), Matt Perry (500 freestyle), Dan Hogan (500 freestyle). 

Outlook: Coach Scott Teeters, a former head women's swimming coach at Oakland University and Eastern Michigan University, has 30 swimmers, including five girls, and four female divers. 

Pinckney Pirates 

Key returners: Aaron Renton (jr., 50 and 100 freestyle), Andy Coates (jr., distance freestyle), Eric Hodonsky (sr., sprint freestyle/IM), Blake Bylsma (sr., multiple) 

Outlook: Renton, a junior, qualified for states in both of his events last year and has a chance to break his own school records, as well as add another one in the 100 butterfly. 

South Lyon Lions 

Key returners: Ryan Fulkerson (sr., 100 backstroke, 100 butterfly), Josh Gale (sr, 200 and 500 freestyle), Kevin Grinnell (sr., 100 butterfly), Matt Witkowski (jr., 200 and 500 freestyle) 

Outlook: The Lions have 25 swimmers on the team, well above the numbers of two years ago (12) and last year (17). The four listed above are returning state qualifiers. 

Coach John Burch says: "There are a lot of boys kind of on that bubble of state qualifying." 


Pioneer Pioneers

Key returners: Sho Koba (jr., sprinter), Robert Steele (jr., 100 butterfly), Jason Hass (soph., 100 butterfly), David Curtis (sr.), Michael Zang (sr., distance)

Outlook: The Pioneers will again contend for a state championship, finding themselves sitting atop of the state rankings with Birmingham Brother Rice. Pioneer returns several swimmers who placed at last year's state meet and has 46 swimmers.

Coach Dennis Hill says: "As long as we can keep everyone healthy, we should be pretty good."

Dexter Dreadnaughts 

Key returners: Bryan Vessels (sr., 100 freestyle, 100 backstroke), Kirk Kumblier (soph., 200 IM, 100 breaststroke). Eric Kumbier (sr., IM, breaststroke), Matt Brown (sr., 500 freestyle, 100 freestyle, 100 butterfly) 

Outlook: Vessels returns as the defending Division 2 state champion in the 100 backstroke and the state runner-up in the 50 freestyle. As a team, Dexter is down from 33 swimmers to 29, having lost 11 seniors. 

Coach Mike Van Rhee says: "Our seniors really make my job easier." 

Chelsea Bulldogs 

Key returners: Andy Kellogg (sr., 100 and 200 freestyle, 200 IM) Nick Armstrong (soph., sprint freestyle, 100 butterfly), Rick Kinsey (soph., 200 and 500 freestyle), Sean Cleary (soph., diver), Shawn Bergman (soph., diver) 

Outlook: Look for Chelsea to surprise some people this year after strong off-season training as swimmers get bigger and gain experience. 

Jolly says: "We've really got a marked improvement. It really has been amazing." 

Lincoln Railsplitters 

Returning seniors: Bill Dopkowski (sr.), Alex Toth (sr.) 

Outlook: Lincoln made a coaching shift last week, as Dustin Palik took over and was unable to even meet his swimmers until the end of the week. The former Adrian College swimmer inherits a team with about 12 swimmers, giving him an early challenge to deal with. 

Palik says: "It will be kind of a crash course in them getting used to me and me getting used to them. I'm pretty laid back, and starting this late and with such a small team, I'm not going to have a lot of high expectations. I'm more concerned with personal growth and success." 

Saline Hornets 

Key returners: Dan Warner (sr., 200 IM, 100 breaststroke), Kyle Begley (jr., 200 freestyle, 100 butterfly), Mike Devries (sr., 200 and 500 freestyle), Connor Christie (soph., 200 IM, 100 butterfly) 

Outlook: After finishing 13th in the state last year, the Hornets have been ranked as high as ninth in preseason polls. Saline is led by Warner, who finished second in the state in the IM last year and ninth in the breaststroke. 

Coach Mike Holtz says: "It's all up to the team." 

Tecumseh Indians 

Key returners: Corey Girdwood (sr., sprints), Eric Schroeder (sr., breaststroke), Corey Cote (soph., sprinter) 

Outlook: Coach Peter Zuk's team is looking to rebound after losing 10 to graduation. 

Zuk says: "We're hoping to make progress this year and get to where we're equal with (a program like Chelsea). Whether we'll get there or not, I don't know." 


Belleville Tigers 

Key returners: Scott Cameron (sr., distance freestyle, 100 backstroke), Tony Caudill (sr., IM, breaststroke), Bevys Smyth (jr., sprint freestyle), Dave Poirier (jr., diver), Chad Caudill (jr., utility) 

Outlook: Peter Mackie's youthful team will be tested right away, making the shift from the Mega Conference's White Division to the top-division Red. 

Mackie says: "Our kids are anxious to get into (the higher division) and see what they're capable of. It gives them a chance to really push themselves." 

Willow Run Flyers 

Key returners: Steve Rurka (jr., 50 and 100 freestyle, 50 butterfly), Kevin Jarvey (jr., 200, 500), Paul Adams (jr., breaststroke, 50, 100) 

Outlook: Willow Run faces a rebuilding year and head into the season with no seniors. 

Coach Von Acker says: "We're not going to be too competitive, but as long as they can continually cut their times, they should get satisfaction out of that." 

Ypsilanti Braves 

Key returners: Tim Lieberbach (jr., backstroke, butterfly), Isaac Chenier (sr., distance), Kevin Kimlin (sr., diver), Tom Underwood (soph., sprint freestyle), Stephan Kelley (jr., sprinter) 

Outlook: Ypsilanti has the most talent in coach David Swank's five years with the program. The Braves' roster includes 26 athletes. 

Swank says: "They have high expectations for themselves, and that's kind of a new development at Ypsilanti. We're not necessarily looking to win the league, but we're looking to improve enough to where we can be competitive in the Red Division (of the conference)." 


Canton Chiefs 

Key returners: John Faraoni (sr., 100 freestyle, 100 butterbutterfly, 100 backstroke), Matt Carlson (soph., 200 IM, 100 breaststroke), Nick Landis (jr., 200 and 500 freestyle, 100 butterfly), Kevin Cafarelli (sr., diver), Nathan Phillips (jr., IM, backstroke), Shogo Uno (jr., 100 butterfly, 50 freestyle), Robert Blaesser (soph., 200 IM, 50 freestyle) 

Outlook: The Chiefs must overcome the loss of a strong class of seniors, but have candidates to step into leadership roles. Faraoni is the lone state qualifier from last year. 

Coach Ed Weber says: "We can't wait for our key swimmer to take over a meet. Everybody's got to find a role on this team." 

Salem Rocks 

Key returners: Nick Dixon (sr., 200 IM, 100 backstroke), Matt Jurcak (sr., freestyle, backstroke), Mike Higgs (sr., freestyle), Penn Chou (sr., IM, breaststroke) 

Outlook: After finishing fourth in the conference last year, Salem hopes to move up this year. 

Coach Chuck Olson says: "We need to use our time wisely and get a lot better." 

Plymouth Wildcats 

Key returners: Andy Knisley (jr., 100 butterfly, 100 breaststroke), Sorin Oprican (jr., 100 backstroke), Justin McGill (soph., diver), David Kong (soph., backstroke) 

Outlook: Plymouth has 10 incoming freshmen to its program and will need time to establish itself with so much inexperience. 

Coach Doug Schade says: "When you're as young as we are, it's tough to compete. It's really tough." 

Milan Big Reds 

Key returners: Jimmy Donahue (jr., IM, freestyle), Ryan Bordine (soph., freestyle, backstroke), Kyle Schroeder (sr., diver), Evan Betts (jr., diver), Nathan Kaczmarek (jr., butterfly, sprint freestyle) 

Outlook: After losing nine seniors to graduation, Milan looks to again repeat as the Huron League champion. Schroeder, who won a state diving title last year, leads a strong nucleus of returners, all of which qualified for the state meet last year. 

Coach Dan Heikka says: "I think all of the guys feel like they have something to prove this year. " 

Jeff Arnold can be reached at jarnold@annarbornews.com or at (734) 994-6812.