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Cranbrook repeats as Division 3 state champions with dominating performance

By: Dan Stickradt, March 14, 2015, 6:00 pm

ROCHESTER HILLS — Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood enjoyed the sensation of a state championship so much last season, the Cranes opted to retain the feeling.

Behind a dominating team performance, Cranbrook Kingswood defended its MHSAA Division 3 state crown Saturday in the confines of Oakland University, wracking up an impressive 430 points for the title and winning by 130.5 points in the process.

Chelsea finished in the runner-up slot for the second straight year, collecting 299.5 points. East Grand Rapids was third with 248 points, while Hamilton (215), Grand Rapids Christian (124), Milan (111), Birmingham Detroit Country Day (104), Grand Rapids Catholic Central (94), Tecumseh (90) and Otsego (86) rounded out the top 10 in a field where 29 schools scored points. 

“It was a little more difficult this season, a lot more pressure,” said a soaking wet Cranbrook coach Karl Hodgson, who has guided the Cranes to four top-five finishes in his stint at the school. “I knew we had a shot coming in and we were in good position after the prelims. But I never thought we’d do this well. We had some incredible performances.”

Indeed, Cranbrook dominated from start to finish, opening the meet with a D-3 state-meet record in the 200-yard medley relay and capping the day with another meet record in the 400 freestyle relay.

On the day, Cranbrook won five of the 12 events, scored in 11 events overall, had a runner-up finish, five third-place finishes and a trio of fourth-place finishes to flex its front-end talent. Of the possible 176 medals slots, Cranbrook had 27 placers in the top 16 spread over all events.

A total of 14 out of 16 competitors scored points for the Cranes in their repeat performance. 

“We came out and won the first relay and it kind of amped us up,” admitted senior Frankie Misra. “We kind of (fed) off that energy. We wanted to win it again.”

Misra, Mitch Buccalo, Andrew Guam and Giorgio DelGrosso joined forces for a 1:33.89 clocking in the 200 medley relay to set the tone. The Cranes continued to pile on the points after that point. 

Buccalo set another D-3 mark in winning the 200 IM (1:50.55), Andrew Trunsky captured gold in the 500 freestyle (4:37.12), building a large lead by the midpoint and cruising to a win by nearly 3.5 seconds, while DelGrosso pulled away for a win in the 100 breaststroke (56.58).

Carrying a three-second lead after Friday’s prelims, the unit of Guam, Alessandro Guttilla, Misra and Buccalo put the finishing touches on the team title by winning the meet-ending 400 freestyle relay in 3:06.15, yet another D-3 state-meet record. 

“I think when us seniors came in, we helped take the program to another level and now we have so many good swimmers on this team,” said Buccalo, who was named D-3 state-meet swimmer of the year. “We trained so hard for this. We were second two years ago and we won it this year and last year. We’re not just a (tennis and hockey school), yes sir. Our swimming program is very strong.”  

East Grand Rapids’ Andy McGregor was in on three victories on the day, touching first in both the 200 freestyle (1:40.96) and 100 freestyle (46.09), while he teamed up with Braden Wiener, Christian Bart and Jack Filion for a meet-record time of 1:26.06 in the 200 freestyle relay.

“It’s pretty special being up there representing our school and coming in here and doing so well,” said MacGregor, who had a slow start in the 200 free only to pull ahead in the final two lengths. He also anchored the winning relay. 

“I think the sprinting part is my strength. I always pick it up to finish strong,” added MacGregor.

Chelsea sophomore Joey Mangner won the 50 free (21.27), an event where six competitors broke 22 seconds. Chelsea’s Joe Smith captured the one-meter diving event (492.95 points), rising up from 10th position after Friday’s prelims. The Bulldogs had four of the top 16 finishers in diving, including two of the top three placers.

“Everyone thought that (St. Joseph’s Brad) Dalrymple would win, but we outperformed him,” smiled Smith. “I really felt good in the finals. It was my one of my best performances.”

As a team, Chelsea put together another fine outing but still not enough to catch Cranbrook.

“They are very good, very deep,” conceded Chelsea coach Dave Jolly about finishing second to Cranbrook for the second straight season. “We knew we could challenge for second but knew we couldn’t match up with their depth. But I am very pleased with how we competed. We had everyone swim season bests and we did very well in diving. Having the best diving coach in the state of Michigan (Eric Burris) sure helps. This is the second straight year we had a state champion in diving. Being strong in that event really helped us finish second. We scored (50) points in that event alone.”

Hamilton’s Alec Nyboer defended his title in the 100 butterfly, establishing a new D-3 standard with a 49.15 clocking. Grand Rapids Catholic Central’s Joey Puglessi won the 100 backstroke (50.45) to round out the winners.