What a year for Royal Oak

Swim team enjoys brilliant winter with Blue title and Zatina earning All-State

By: Mike Moore | Royal Oak Review | Published March 19, 2014

 Zach Zatina, pictured at the state finals, concluded his career with an All-State swim in the 50-yard freestyle event.

Zach Zatina, pictured at the state finals, concluded his career with an All-State swim in the 50-yard freestyle event.

Photo provided by Darrin Millar

ROYAL OAK — What started in October concluded in March.

And for the better part of four months, the Royal Oak High boys swim team enjoyed one of the best seasons the program has known in a long time.

“You have to be a special kid to commit to this sport and to be a swimmer with the mentality these guys have,” coach Darrin Millar said last week. Millar completed his 27th season with the Ravens. “It was a great year. It’s nice when you work for something, and then the guys go out and get it.”

From practices before school, to after class, to early on weekend mornings, Millar is one to push his team.

And his guys responded.

“We had a great year of training where every kid came to work, and work hard,” he said. “It’s pretty awesome when you get all heads pointing in the same direction.”

At those preseason meetings in October, Millar said the main focus of discussion was on claiming an Oakland Activities Association Blue Division title.

On Feb. 21, the Ravens did just that with a team score of 488. Rochester High was the next closest at 476, while Berkley High was third at 347.

“It was a huge deal,” Millar said of the league title. “We beat a very good Rochester team by 12, and they had doubled us up in the dual meet earlier in the season. We swam with a chip on our shoulder that day.”

Zach Zatina also had a meet to remember for Royal Oak, earning Senior of the Meet accolades after setting a Blue Division record of 21.52 seconds in the 50-yard freestyle.

Millar was also named Coach of the Year in the Blue.

“That’s always a nice honor,” Millar said. “It’s something voted on by your peers. They understand how difficult a job this can be, how much work is required and some of the sacrifices that need to be made. So that makes it pretty special.”

While the team’s success was plentiful, Zatina kept his rolling into the Division 2 state finals.

Zatina earned All-State in the 50 free, placing eighth in a time of 21.68 seconds.

He also took 10th in the 100 free, finishing in 47.65 seconds. Millar said Zatina missed All-State in the event by 0.04 seconds.

“Zach had a great season and career at Royal Oak,” Millar boasted. “He came in as a freshman, and his first 50 free took 32 seconds and his first 100 free was in 1:12.  This was a classic example of setting goals and working hard towards them. … He leaves Royal Oak as the fastest sprinter to come out of the city. His times are faster than both the Kimball record-holder (Dave Kerska, 1983) and the Dondero record-holder (Jeff Travis, 2000) in the same events. His attributes, both in and out of the water, are good examples for others.”