By Mike Williamson –

A dynasty, a super team, a reign of terror, whatever you want to call the dominance by the Dexter swim and dive team over the past four years, you are not going to get head coach Michael McHugh to call his team anything other than state champions.

Dexter made it a four-peat Saturday as the Dreadnaughts held off Birmingham Groves to claim its fourth straight Division 2 state championship at Eastern Michigan University.

The Dreadnaughts finished with 239 points, beating out Groves with 203, and Birmingham Seaholm 181.5. This years team was different than the past three champions for Dexter as this season the Dreadnaughts used “star power” to claim the top spot.

The past three years Dexter used their depth to earn the state titles, while this years squad dominated with a strong core unit to earn a majority of the points for the Dreadnaughts. “It was a different feel with this years squad, with only five swimmers scoring points for us in the individual races,” McHugh said. “We knew going in that those guys had to perform going in for us to be successful and they took that pressure and embraced it and did a great job.”

Dexter had the core group of five and two more swimmers helped the relay teams earn points. The Dreadnaughts came away with four state championship and three runners-up from their core group of swimmers.

Freshman Cole Warren finished sixth in the diving

The biggest surprise may have come in the diving where freshman Cole Warren had a big day in the finals and moved up from 10th to 6th place to earn a big 13 points for the Dreadnaughts. “Cole was competing in his first state finals and it was a huge six-point swing for us to slow a hard-charging Groves team.” Warren scored the fourth most points out of 16 divers in the three rounds of finals competition.

Nik Eberly won the 50 free and 100 butterfly state titles

Nik Eberly came away with two individual state championships in the 50 free and defended his title in the 100 butterfly, and teamed with Michael Baumann, Clayton Kinnard, and Casey Dolen to win the 400 free relay that sealed the state title for the Dreadnaughts. He was named the Outstanding Swimmer for the Finals. Eberly finished his career with four individual state titles and was a member of three state title-winning relay teams. “Nik joined us as a sophomore and we are relay lucky,” McHugh said. “Without him, things are a lot different.” Eberly was also part of the 200 medley relay team with Kinnard, Paul Schaefer, and Sharp that finished second.

Casey Dolen won the 100 free title and was part of the winning 400 free relay

Dolen rallied to pull out the state title in the 100 free. He made the final turn with 25 yards to go and came from behind to beat out Luke Lezotte of Midland Dow by .02 seconds. “Casey winning the 100 in the last individual race of his career was special,” McHugh said. “I was so proud of him for fighting through the resiliency of not winning the 200. We did a little more speed work with him and it sure paid off today.” Dolen came up just short in the 200 free, finishing second and was part of the 200 free relay team along with Sharp, Baumann, and Luke Sayler that finished 2nd.

Sharp’s 5th place finish and Schaefer’s 15th place finish in the 100 breast gave the Dreadnaughts a 30 points lead going into the 400 free relay, meaning all they had to do was keep from being disqualified in the race and they would win the title and they did just that by winning the race.

Kinnard also earned an all-state finish in the 200 IM in 8th and was 15th in the 100 back, while Sharp was all-state in the 50 free with a seventh-place finish.

The state champion 400 free relay team of Eberly, Baumann, Kinnard, and Dolen

With Eberly and Dolen competing in their last races for the Dreadnaughts, the question remains whether Dexter can continue its D2 domination. “We are losing two seniors, but a ton of points,” McHugh said. “Each year the kids seem to step up. I don’t want to count out anybody, because they seem to build off what has happened in front of them.”

Pictures by Mike Williamson


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