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 Macomb Dakota sophomore Zachary Colo competes in the 200-yard freestyle Feb. 3 during the Macomb County meet. Colo was one of eight Cougars swimmers to qualify for the state finals.

Macomb Dakota sophomore Zachary Colo competes in the 200-yard freestyle Feb. 3 during the Macomb County meet. Colo was one of eight Cougars swimmers to qualify for the state finals.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Dakota coach reflects on record-setting year

By: Timothy Pontzer | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published March 28, 2018

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — The Macomb Dakota swimming team capped off a successful season with a historic feat: sending eight representatives to the state meet.

The Cougars had six swimmers and two divers head out to Eastern Michigan University for the two-day Division I finals March 9-10. It marked the most qualifiers at the event in program history.

“This was a really good year. I’m really proud of the kids,” Dakota coach John Samonie said. “The kids worked hard, and they all swam faster as the year went on and showed real improvement. Coming into the year, we thought it might be a little bit of a down year, but we actually stepped up and swam much better than expected.”

At states, seniors Donovan Colo and Zach Knott teamed with juniors Andrew Michaels and Alec Wawrzyniak in the 200-yard medley relay. Colo also swam in the 200 IM and 100 backstroke. Knott also qualified for the 100 breaststroke.

Senior Gaspare Destasi and freshman Corbin Montpas participated in the 1-meter dive. 

Donovan’s younger brother, sophomore Zachary Colo, raced in the 200 freestyle and 500 free. He teamed with Knott, Wawrzyniak and sophomore Tony Shllaku in the 200 free relay. The brothers joined with Shllaku and Wawrzyniak in the 400 free relay.

“Coming into the season, I would have never imagined that we would have had three relays at the state meet,” Samonie remarked. “It was really impressive that we were able to get three teams there. The cuts were really quick this year, so just making those cuts was a really big accomplishment.”

Samonie cited his two seniors in Colo and Knott as key leaders for the group.

“We wouldn’t have made it to states without them,” Samonie said. “They both really stepped up and showed what it takes. The kids — already doing pretty well — made some big improvements seeing that. Knott had tremendous drops. He worked really hard in the offseason, and it paid off.”

Samonie said his group took great pride in smashing several school records this season, including a new mark in the 200 medley relay, which had stood since 2007.

The Colo brothers, Knott and Michaels finished in 1 minute 41.23 seconds earlier in the year.

“A sign of how it was a very successful year was how many records we put up. That was really good for us,” Samonie explained. “We broke the 200 medley relay multiple times with multiple kids. We really wanted to get that one.”

Zachary Colo also posted new school marks in the 200 free (1:45.38) and 500 free (4:46.53). Donovan Colo owns the new 100 breaststroke record of 1:00.83.

Shllaku, Wawrzyniak, Knott and Noah Vallee set a new time in the 200 free relay of 1:30.76. Shallku, Wawrzyniak and the two Colo swimmers also set the 400 free relay with a 3:18.53.

Graduating half of the state representatives, Samonie believes his club will have a solid base for next season, as well from the legacy left behind from his seniors.

“We’re definitely looking ahead to what we can do,” Samonie said. “We know we might struggle a bit in some of the stroke events where we lose a lot, but it’s just an opportunity for the younger kids to step up and take the lead. In freestyle, we have a lot of skill so we’re confident there. The younger kids coming back now have that experience to build on and know what it takes.”