Chippewa boys swim team captures crown for first time

By: Jon Malavolti | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published February 15, 2012

 The Chippewa Valley swim team celebrates its first-ever boys county championship.

The Chippewa Valley swim team celebrates its first-ever boys county championship.

Photo by David Schreiber

While most people probably wouldn’t appreciate getting pushed into a pool multiple times, Tony Grice doesn’t mind it.

In fact, he enjoys it.

That’s because on Feb. 4, for the third time in three years, Grice celebrated with his Macomb County champion Chippewa Valley swim team by taking the traditional dip.

“It’s nice. I don’t mind it at all,” he said.

This year marked the first time the Big Reds boys program won the county title, which was held at Macomb L’Anse Creuse North. His other two dips in the pool came courtesy of his girls teams.

“It’s something they’ve worked for the past three years,” Grice said of his swimmers. “We’ve been working up to starting from almost scratch a few years ago, building up to this point, getting better each year. They worked very hard, and they deserve it.”

The Big Reds scored 308 points to take the county crown. Their relays led the way, as the 400-yard freestyle team of Jeff Voss, Ben Pitlock, Craig Pertler and Tommy Bender broke a record set in 1979 by a team from the now-closed Warren High. Their new county record is 3 minutes, 22.14 seconds. The Big Reds also finished first in the 200 medley relay thanks to Joshua Curtiss, Pitlock, Pertler and Voss. Both relay teams have qualified for the state finals.

The Big Reds’ depth put them over the top at the competitive meet.

“It makes a big difference, especially in a close meet,” Grice said.

Chippewa’s 200 freestyle relay squad of Bender, Curtiss, Alan Leung and Keith Morrison finished fourth.

The Big Reds also recorded several individual top-10 finishes, including Voss (third in the 100 freestyle and fifth in the 100 backstroke), Pertler (second in 100 butterfly and fourth in 200 IM), Bender (second in 100 backstroke and fifth in 50 free), Pitlock (third in 200 IM and eighth in 500 free), Curtiss (ninth in both 50 free and 100 free), Brandon Mitteer (eighth in both 100 butterfly and 100 breaststroke), Leung (seventh in 100 backstroke) and Jonathan Ureel (10th in both 200 free and 500 free).

Grice said winning the county meet gives the Big Reds “a lot of momentum” heading into the final third of the season. Several Big Reds were scheduled to swim in the MISCA meet after press time, while the Macomb Area Conference Red Division championship is Feb. 23-25 at Grosse Pointe North. The MHSAA Division 1 state final is Feb. 9-10 at Eastern Michigan University.

“Hopefully, this carries them into divisions with confidence,” the coach said. “Hopefully, we can swim even better at divisions. Hopefully, we can get some more individual cuts.”

The Big Reds have already made more state cuts than last year, and Grice knows the more top-notch competition they go up against, the better. Their ultimate goal is to have more success at the state level.

“I think that’s helped, seeing these faster swimmers, not just in Macomb County, but at the state meet,” he said. “There are really fast kids, and lots of them. It gives them a better picture of what they need to do.”