Brother Rice wins prestigious Oakland County swim championships
Lake Orion – There’s an adage that performing well at the prestigious Oakland County boys swimming and diving championships will indicate better things to come.
Hailing from a loaded field such as this Oakland County meet, this is sure to come to fruition.
Birmingham Brother Rice, the defending Oakland County and Division 1 state champions, fended off a talented field Saturday at Lake Orion to win its 16th county crown since 1993. The Warriors, ranked No. 1, edged out the top-ranked team in Division 2, Birmingham Seaholm, and Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, ranked No. 1 in Division 3, to reign again in one of the biggest meets in the state outside of the state finals.
The event featured a dozen schools were ranked in the top 10 or listed as honorable mention in the three divisions of the MISCA state polls, while Brother Rice, Seaholm and Cranbrook Kingswood all finished as state champs last March. The field also featured many state-ranked individuals and relays teams that are destined for titles down the stretch.
“It’s always such an important meet to see where you stand. You do well here and chances are you’ll be competitive at the state meet.” Brother Rice coach Mike Venos said. “What I like about it is you know that there is always going to be teams that will push you. Seaholm and Cranbrook are very good, there’s a bunch of other really good teams and Lake Orion has a couple of very good swimmers, as does (Detroit) Catholic Central. There’s so much talent here every year. It’s nice to come in and have a big target on your back and then perform well. It’s not easy to win, especially when you have (three No. 1 teams) in the state.”
Brother Rice pulled away over the final four events to collect 363 points. Seaholm was second with 293 points and Cranbrook Kingswood claimed third with 234 points.
It marked the 15th straight season a Birmingham-based school won the county title. The last time a non-Birmingham school emerged as the voice was Rochester Adams back in 2000.
Catholic Central (165), Novi (164), Rochester Adams (157), Birmingham Groves (151), Troy (139), West Bloomfield (119) and Clarkston (115) rounded out the top 10 in a field where 24 schools out of 35 scored points.
Cranbrook Kingswood, one of the smaller schools with swimming and diving programs within talent-laden Oakland County, had one of its best county finishes to date.
“I have been trying to get these kids to understand that they can compete with just about anybody,” Cranbrook Kingswood coach Karl Hodges said. “I think doing this well here that these guys can believe. We won’t see this much competition again until the state meet. Here are little Cranbrook compared to some of these D-1 and D-2 schools…to come in here and do so well again will help us prepare for the state finals.”
Rudy Aguilar captured the 500-meter free (4:41.27), and he joined forces with Bobby Powrie, Gust Kouvaris and Mark Blinstrub for a win in the meet-ending 400 free relay (3:08.74) to lead Brother Rice. Although the Warriors only won two of the 11 events, they had the superior depth with legions of top-16 placers to add to its impressive point total and 70-point win.
“I think depth is what really helped us again,” Venos said. “We lost some really good kids (to graduation), but we had a bunch of kids that have stepped up and turned in their top time today or came really close. We had a few nice surprises again today and you’ll always need that in a meet this big.”
Seaholm’s foursome of Evan Burke, Jack Russell, Nick Ross and Enrique Hernandez captured the 200 medley title (1:34.98). Ross came back to touch first in the 100 free (46.95), while Ross, Hernandez, Russell and Liam Little had the winning effort in the 200 free relay (1:25.30).
Burke gave Seaholm its fourth win on the day with a victory in the 100 breaststroke (58:57).
Cranbrook Kingswood’s sole win on the day came from Andrew Guan the 200 free (1:42.48).
Catholic Central’s Jack Walsh won the 200 IM (1:50.02), one of three county-meet records set on the day, and came back to claim the 100 backstroke (50.54) title. The senior has won county titles in each of the past three years.
Troy’s Zachary Chen won the 50 free (21.22), another county record, White Lake Lakeland’s Shinya Kondo captured Friday’s one-meter diving event (430.55 points), and Lake Orion’s Devon Nowicki touched first in the 100 butterfly (49.93), another county mark, to round out the winners.