Dow High's swimming team is surging at just the right time, and it showed in the host Chargers' Saginaw Valley League meet Monday vs. crosstown rival Midland High.
Dow won every event en route to beating the Chemics 131-39, and the Chargers had numerous state qualifying times and even a new pool record along the way.
"We had some really, really good swims tonight," said Chargers' coach Gary Strickler. " ... We capped the meet off with a new pool record in the 400(-yard) free relay, and we just missed a pool record in the 200 free relay, so our relays are coming together really nicely for us.
"Our guys who have qualified for state (in individual events) are dropping times on a regular basis, and they're seeded in the top three or four of those events," Strickler added. "And now we're putting some relays together, and so maybe we'll be able to get some top-three finishes (at state) in those relays, too."
Dow's Leon Brits, Ben Martin, Michael Pixton, and Jackson Goethe set a pool record in the 400 free relay in the final event, finishing with a time of 3:16.75, which was also a state qualifying time.
Also hitting state qualifying times and winning events for the Chargers were Goethe in the 200 free (1:45.95) and the 100 butterfly (55.11); Pixton in the 200 individual medley (2:03.60); Brits in the 500 free (22.68); Martin in the 500 free (4:53.53); and the team of Brits, Pixton, Goethe, and Martin in the 200 free relay (1:29.57).
Other event winners for Dow were Brits in the 100 free (51.75); Zach Blinke in the 100 backstroke (1:00.55); Connor Keilitz in the 100 breaststroke (1:11.63); and the team of Blinke, Jeremy Wisler, Joey Knoff, and John Ludington in the 200 medley relay (1:52.96).
Dow also had eight second-place finishes.
Taking second for the Chargers were the team of Jared Justin, Keilitz, Andrew Lundahl, and Rick Knoff in the 200 medley relay (1:54.03); Martin in the 200 freestyle (1:46.76) with a state qualifying time; Pixton in the 100 butterfly (56.17) with a state qualifying time; Rick Knoff in the 100 free (54.14); Thomas Braganca in the 500 free (5:37.05); the team of Ludington, Zach Hoffman, Keilitz, and Ryan Qamar in the 200 free relay (1:41.67); Mark Debney in the 100 breaststroke (1:14.73); and the team of Hoffman, Rick Knoff, Lundahl, and Joey Knoff in the 400 free relay (3:45.07).
"We've developed a lot of depth in the last month or so, and that's been the biggest success story for us," said Strickler. "We now have between 20 and 25 guys who will score for us at the (Saginaw) Valley (League) meet, and we started the season with only eight or 10 guys who could possibly score.
"The next group of 10 (potential scorers) came on pretty fast after the start of January," he added.
Tyler Slater paced Midland, finishing second in both the 200 IM (2:16.55) and the 100 backstroke (1:01.58) and swimming in two third-place relays.
Jesse Smith had a second-place finish in the 50 free (24.39) for the Chemics, while taking third for Midland were the team of Jack Duly, Slater, Philip Steinbrunner, and Jessie Smith in the 200 medley relay (1:54.69); Jesse Smith in the 100 free (54.76); Travis Smith in the 500 free (5:38.94); the team of Steinbrunner, Aaron Chatman, Ravdeep Dhingra, and Travis Smith in the 200 free relay (1:43.49); and the team of Slater, Travis Smith, Duly, and Jesse Smith in the 400 free relay (3:49.29).
"Travis Smith dropped so much time and did a great job," said Chemics' coach Carol Boychuck. "He actually dropped 10 seconds in the 500 free for his PR (personal record).
"And we had other great swims from Tyler Slater and Greg Marsh and Aaron Chatman, who all had personal bests (in various events)," she added. " ... And Tyler Slater is not only a great swimmer but also a great leader."
Boychuck said that swimming against Dow is challenging but enjoyable.
"It's always a fun meet, because it's a crosstown rivalry," she noted. "We have two different types of teams. Our team's made up of athletes from diverse sports, while Dow's core of their team is (made up of full-time) swimmers.
"But it's always fun swimming with them ... and it's always fun watching them break a pool record," she added.
After a slow start to the season, Dow is coming on strong as more and more swimmers are finding their niche, Strickler noted.
"We had 15 guys who came out this year who were brand new to swimming. Some of them learned to swim the first week of training, and now a number of those guys will score points for us at the Valley meet," Strickler said. "Over the course of two and a half months, they've become very good swimmers."
After dropping four consecutive dual meets at the start of the season, the Chargers have improved to 4-4 overall and 4-2 in the Valley -- none of which means all that much to Strickler.
"You recognize that dual meets don't count for much except for pride," he said. "We always point to the Valley championships as our sole objective."
While Dow's goal is to win the Valley meet, Midland is focused on simply getting better from one meet to the next, Boychuck said.
"We're just going to try to continue getting our personal bests. We've had a lot of personal bests this year, and that's our team goal," she noted. " ... I'm happy when our swimmers get personal bests. That's all you can ask for -- each person to do their very best."
The Chemics slip to 3-4 in dual meets.
The SVL meet will be hosted by Dow but held at Saginaw Valley State University next Thursday and Saturday, Feb. 23 and 25.