BY DAN STICKRADT
LAKE ORION — If there is any rule about Oakland County boys swimming and diving, all lanes must lead through Birmingham.
For the 17th time in 20 years, Birmingham Brother Rice claimed the Oakland County championship Saturday, making it the 19th time in two decades that a Birmingham-based school has won the county title.
The Division 1 state-ranked Warriors, who recently climbed to the No. 2 spot in the top 10, racked up 347 points to win by a mere 31 points at Lake Orion High School.
“I know it sounds crazy, but we don’t walk in here focusing on winning anything,” offered Brother Rice coach Mike Venos, who has been the Warriors’ head coach since 1997 and part of many of those county-championship squads. “I think that is why we do well. They take care of what they are supposed to take care of and everything else falls into place.”
Birmingham Seaholm finished second with 316 points, as the Maples didn’t quite have the depth as Brother Rice. Only Seaholm, Birmingham Groves and Rochester Adams have been able to break Brother Rice’s stranglehold on the county crown during the past 20 years.
“I honestly have never counted how many we’ve won. That’s not our focus. If that’s what we focused on each year, we wouldn’t have won all of those titles,” said Venos. “There are far too many good swimmers and very talented teams here to worry about winning. If you swim well and happen to win, I think it can give you a good barometer of how you stack up. But there’s still a lot of the season to go. We have a long ways to go and some pretty big meets coming up.”
Novi Detroit Catholic Central had its highest team finish at the event since the school relocated in Oakland County five years ago. The Shamrocks placed third with 229 points. Novi finished fourth at 155, while Lake Orion (137), Bloomfield Hills Lahser (126), Clarkston (115), Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood (108), Troy (102) and White Lake Lakeland (94) also finished in the top 10 in the team standings.
A total of 28 schools scored points at the prestigious event, which draws swimmers and divers from over 35 schools each year.
“It’s a lot of fun coming in here and swimming fast,” said Venos. “I thought, overall, we had a great day. We came in here focused and we had some of our best performances of the year.”
Several individuals posted some impressive marks on the day.
Lakeland’s Will Walker posted an upset in the 500 free, slipping past several higher seeded competitors to win with a 4:42.03 clocking.
“I just wanted to go out there and swim as fast as I could. I didn’t plan on beating anybody in particular, I just wanted to the best that I could,” said Walker. “I had the best time of the season so far. I hope to keep it going and swim faster at some of the other meets coming up. I would really like to place high at the state meet and see just how fast I can go.”
Junior Joe Krause won two individual events and was a part of two winning relays to pace Brother Rice. Krause won both the 200 freestyle (1:42.38) and the 100 freestyle (46.81), while he also teamed up with Gust Kouvaris, Patrick Nodland and Joe Morgan to win the 200 freestyle relay (1:26.62) and also teamed up with Kouvaris, Nodland and Bobby Powrie on the winning 400 freestyle relay (3:12.73).
Catholic Central sophomore Jack Walsh was one of two individuals to establish a new county mark on the day, as his blistering 200 IM time of 1:53.01 broke a 14-year-old county record. Already one of the state’s best swimmers, Walsh came back to win the 100 backstroke (52.11) and joined forces with Tim Szuba, Ryan Newman and Christopher Vela to win the 200 medley relay (1:38.00)
Szuba also won the 50 free (21.59) for Catholic Central.
Fittingly, Troy junior Troy Chen won the 100 butterfly (52.46). Bloomfield Hills Lahser’s John Schihl broke the county record in 100 breaststroke (57.72), while Lakeland freshman Shinya Kndo had quite a debut in winning Friday’s one-meter diving competition with 381.7 points.
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