Midland Dow senior – Swimming & Diving
He's set his share of records, but for a year Mork had his eye on another he just missed breaking as a junior. It's his now. Mork set or was part of four meet records at the Tri-Cities Swimming & Diving Championships at Saginaw Valley State University on Saturday, earning the Michigan National Guard’s Performance of the Week.
The Michigan State University recruit broke his own meet record in the 50-yard freestyle (21.26) and another with his opening leg of the winning 400 relay (45.90). But the record he aimed for was in the 100 butterfly, where he knocked three-time MHSAA individual champion Wade King of Saginaw MacArthur off the board with a time of 51.13; King’s record had stood since 1982. Mork also teamed with Ben Brandstadt, Noah Behm and Jacob Krzciok to break the meet record in the 200 freestyle relay in 1:29.10.
Mork won Lower Peninsula Division 2 Finals championships in the 50 and 100 freestyles last season and owns or is part of seven school records – for all three relays, plus the 50 (20.80), 100 (45.67) and 200 (1:41.6) freestyles and butterfly (50.46). A top-10 student at his school academically, Mork has an unweighted grade-point average of 3.95 and will major in mechanical engineering at MSU. He was quick to thank his coaches for investing so much time in his development; his coach, Gary Strickler, in turn explained how dedication had played a great role in creating his latest of many champions.
Coach Gary Strickler said: “The first key is he is a great student; he’s an all-A student, so that’s a significant accomplishment to also be a gifted athlete at the same time. He’s put in countless days of practice since he’s been 10, 11, 12 years old. That in itself is just an unbelievable commitment to a lifetime of swimming. As far as our team is concerned, he shows leadership. It’s different than football or basketball; (for swimming) it’s example. He’s always setting a great example, working at peak level so everyone else sees he’s working at a peak level. And that multiplies his ability to contribute to the team. … If someone sees someone doing great things, they tend to want to copy it.”
Performance Point: “Yes, the two individual events were pretty exciting and breaking Wade King’s record was pretty awesome. But my 200 free relay also beat the meet record. Everybody swam really fast. We were losing for a while, and then we came back to win it, so it was just a really exciting event for everybody.”
Raving about relays: Like many elite swimmers and runners at the high school level, Mork enjoys the opportunities to compete with teammates. “Individual (events) it’s a lot of pressure on me. I have to do so well so I can get an award. For a relay there’s a little less pressure. You have people who can help you if you do not go quite as fast as you want. It also gives you extra incentive to do super well, so your teammates get recognized and get rewards. Relays are nice because everybody gets pumped up; we are united for a goal and we just help each other get excited.”
Unseating the King: “Last year, (Wade King) held the record for the 100 fly for Tri-Cities and (Saginaw) Valley Championships. As a junior I broke his 100 fly record in the Valley Championships and just missed it in Tri-Cities. This year, I said I’ve got to get it this time. A bunch of people were coming up to me during the week saying it’s such an old record, he was such a fast swimmer. ‘Can you break it? Will you break it?’ There was that pressure, but it was very exciting also. It was a super old record, so it was time for it to come down.”
Latest of Dow’s Greats: “You might think it would be stressful to fill those shoes of Jackson Goethe and Ben Martin. They were just so fast and so good, so it’s exciting to me because I get to expand that role. So you get to take on sprint events, and you have to do as well as they did. You feel pressure, but when you accomplish those goals as being faster than they were, it feels extra good. You’re helping out your team, leading the team just as well as the people who came before you. I guess there’s a little more pressure involved, but once you accomplish those goals, it feels so much better.”
Mechanical-Minded: “I’m thinking right now I might want to go into the automotive industry. … I love math and science – those are my two best subjects. I also just love machines, everything they do, and I loving talking about the ideas.”
– Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor
Every week during the 2015-16 school year, Second Half and the Michigan National Guard will recognize a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.
The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and responds as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our Nation's freedom, or protecting lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster.
Previous 2015-16 honorees
Jan. 27: Mardrekia Cook, Muskegon girls basketball - Read
Jan. 20: Sage Castillo, Hartland wrestling - Read
Jan. 13: Rob Zofchak, Dexter swimming & diving - Read
Jan. 6: Tyler Deming, Caro wrestling – Read
Dec. 15: Jordan Weber, East Jordan boys basketball – Read
Dec. 8: Kaitlyn Geers, Kent City girls basketball – Read
PHOTOS: (Top) Midland Dow's Nehemiah Mork competes in a race this season and holds seven school records. (Middle) Mork surges ahead during the butterfly. (Photos courtesy of Susan Drumright.)