By Dean Holzwarth
Special for Second Half
HOLLAND – One key to a successful MHSAA Finals is a team’s ability to thrive in the relay events.
Birmingham Seaholm’s boys swimming and diving team used that formula to win the program’s second straight Lower Peninsula Division 2 title Saturday at the Holland Community Aquatic Center.
Seaholm swept all three relay races, the 200-yard medley, 200 freestyle and 400 free, en route to tallying 393 points.
“To win a state meet, it’s all about the relays,” Seaholm coach Tom Wyllie said. “You have to have fast relays because they are worth so many points. You try to put together the best combinations and that really set us up nicely. We had three very strong relays, and we had a great meet.”
Seaholm, which has won the MHSAA Finals three of the past five years, outgained runner-up Ann Arbor Skyline, which finished with 271.5 points. Dexter placed third with 239 points, while Birmingham Groves was fourth at 189.
“There’s pressure when you have the target on your back and you are favored to win,” Wyllie said. “We’ve been in that situation before, and it hasn’t always worked out. We were really focusing on trying to take care of business doing what we could do.
“Though you can’t win the meet on Friday, you can lose the meet on Friday. You have to put yourself in position to win on Saturday. You set the table, and if the table is set then we can eat. That was really our focus, and we had so many guys just step up after graduating so many swimmers from last season. The next group came in and delivered.”
Seaholm junior Sebastian Fay won the diving portion with 435.35 points. He edged Grosse Pointe South’s Erik Romer, who had 425.45 points.
Fay placed runner-up a year ago.
“I knew it was going to be close from the beginning of the season, and I knew five guys who were doing the same scores every meet,” Fay said. “It was tough, but I was excited to win.
“As a team, I think how close we are really helped. We are all super good friends, and that makes swimming and diving together a great experience.”
Skyline coach Sean Hickman was hoping to put more pressure on Seaholm, but he was satisfied with the runner-up finish.
Skyline’s Ryan VanderMeulen, a junior, clocked a time of 1 minute, 39.56 seconds to win the 200 free, while teammate Matt Orringer, a senior, took top honors in the 500 free with a time of 4:33.72.
“We’re pleased by that,” Hickman said. “We were shooting for a top-four finish, and we had a great day Friday to put us in position and the guys swam solid today. That was our team goal, and everybody delivered.
“We were hoping to give Seaholm more of a run, but they really are the best team this year. We tried our best, and it was a great team effort.”
Grosse Pointe South junior Jacob Montague shined and emerged as the top swimmer after capturing a pair of wins that also were LP Division 2 Finals records.
Montague was victorious in the 200 individual medley with a record-breaking time of 1:48.11 and followed that with an impressive mark of 54.66 in the 100 breaststroke.
“I wasn’t expecting it at all,” Montague said. “I was just trying to go out and swim as fast as I can and try to touch the wall first each time. It’s a huge honor, and I never would’ve expected that I could have done it.
“I just try to work hard every single day, and I’m shocked that I even got (the records) because I didn’t have records on my mind.”
Montague didn’t begin swimming competitively until his freshmen year upon the urging of his older brother. He produced school records in both events during his sophomore campaign.
“I just wanted him to have fun and have some good swims,” Grosse Pointe South coach Eric Gunderson said. “We expected him to go fast, and he did just that. We didn’t necessarily come in expecting any state records or anything, but we knew it wasn’t out of the question if he had a good day, and he did.
“He works incredibly hard, and I’ve never seen a kid who puts in so much effort and it comes out in his swims. It was great to see a day come together for him.”
Dexter junior Robbie Zofchak also established a new LP Division 2 Finals record in the 100 backstroke. He clocked a 49.72.
Zofchak also finished runner-up to Montague in the 200 IM.
“I was really gunning for the record, and it was definitely something special,” Zofchak said. “I’m really proud of myself for that, and I knew I just had to go out and try my best. I was a little disappointed in the IM, but he went really fast. That was impressive.”
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PHOTOS: (Top) Birmingham Seaholm raises its championship trophy Saturday. (Middle) Grosse Pointe South’s Jacob Montague races to a meet record finish. (Click to see more at HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)