SAGINAW – The eventual outcome seemed like a foregone conclusion, but that didn’t make the result any less enjoyable for the Birmingham Brother Rice swim team.
The Warriors dominated the Division 1 swim state finals, scoring 345 points to top the field by 143 and earn their first state championship since 2007.
Head coach Mike Venos, who isn’t one to talk about championships, even felt like this season was Rice’s time after losing out on the title last year by just four points.
“I think the way we ended last year was the big moment,” Venos said of the title. “I saw the look in these kids’ eyes. They made a commitment that day that they were going to come back and do something special this year. We never talk about state championships. We don’t ever talk about winning. We always talk about going out and swimming the best we can and controlling the only thing we can control. It was easy this year as far as writing practices. Every practice was state meet to these guys, and when you have this group of kids that kind of beat each other up every day in practice, it shows. We just kind of wound them up and got out of the way this weekend.”
The Warriors claimed four event titles on the day, including all three relays.
The team of Mark Blinstrub, Drew Grady, Gust Kouvaris and Bradford Jones won the 200 medley relay in a time of 1:32.77. Jones joined Joe Krause, Bobby Powrie and Jack Kennedy in the 200 freestyle relay for a championship time of 1:25.10.
The 400 freestyle relay team of Kouvaris, Powrie, Blinstrub and Krause set a new MHSAA record with a winning time of 3:02.06.
Krause also went on to win the 50 freestyle in a time of 20.63, capping off a tremendous career for the Warriors.
“Joe Krause when he came in as a freshman was a very talented kid. He brought the talent up around him. He has some great leadership skills and the way he works in the pool really caught on to these kids. You need somebody like that, that knows how to step it up. I can yell and scream until I am blue in the face, but when one of the teammates is saying ‘come on, let’s go,’ it means a lot more.”
Krause will continue his swimming career at Notre Dame, but says Saturday’s memories will not be soon forgotten.
“The experience of everything pushes me. My teammates and my coaches have pushed me to be the best I can be and it really all paid off (Saturday),” Krause said. “I have four years of swimming ahead of me, but nothing can match the experience I have had these last few years.”
Krause also ended up taking second in the 100 freestyle on Saturday while Kouvaris placed second in the 100 butterfly. Both have been leaders for the Warriors all season and helped Brother Rice obtain a perfect season with a county, league and state title.
“The way those kids stepped up at the Oakland County meet really surprised me,” Venos said of when he knew his team could win the state title. “I kind of thought that we could do something. It is always in the back of your head, but you just don’t ever want to talk about it.”
Livonia Stevenson ended up in second with 202 while Holland West Ottawa was third with 185. Bloomfield Hills placed fifth on the day with 136, which was a strong outing in their Division 1 finals debut.
SAGINAW — After watching his team fall just short of a state championship in 2013, Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice swimming coach Michael Venos knew this season was going to be different.
A year later, Venos’ fruition proved to be true, as Brother Rice won the Division 1 state championship on Saturday at the Ryder Center at Saginaw Valley State University.
“The way we ended last year was the big moment,” said Venos, still dripping wet from a celebratory jump in the pool with his team. “I saw the look in these kids’ eyes, and they made a commitment that day that they were going to do something special this year.”
Brother Rice dominated the field on the way to its first state title since 2006, scoring a 345, which was 143 points better than second-place Livonia Stevenson. The Warriors won all three relays and placed at least one swimmer in the top five in all eight of the individual swimming events.
Last year, Brother Rice placed second in the state, just four points behind Saline. Although the team never talked about winning a state championship, Venos said he knew his guys were hearing about it from others outside the team.
“I think these kids were under some pressure this year,” Venos said. “There was a lot of talk, ‘You guys are going to do it this year. You’re going to get it done.’ That can go a lot of different ways. But they handled the pressure well.
“I really think we swam great, which we’re all thrilled about, but I think it was something special for these guys.”
For Joe Krause, Saturday was a chance to go out on top. A senior committed to swim at Notre Dame next year, Krause won the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 20.63, placed second in the 100-yard freestyle and raced on two of the three title-winning relay teams.
Krause said finishing second last season did nothing more than drive him and his teammates to work hard and push each other every day in practice.
“This has kind of been a background goal of ours, but we never really emphasized it,” Krause said. “So we came and tried to swim fast. I think we accomplished that.”
Venos said Krause has been a leader for Brother Rice since he joined the team as a freshman, and he was as instrumental to the Warriors’ success as a voice as he was in the water.
“You need somebody like that, that knows how to step it up,” Venos said. “I can sit and yell and scream until I’m blue in the face, but when one of your teammates is saying, ‘Hey, come on, let’s get going,’ it means a lot more coming from him than it does me.”
In the only race Krause was in and didn’t win, he lost to Holland West Ottawa’s Tabahn Afrik, who set a state record in the 100 free with a 43.90. Afrik also won the 200-yard freestyle and set another state record with a 20.27 50-yard split in the 200 freestyle relay.