Bayer’s Awe-Inspiring Diving Record Paces East Grand Rapids Repeat

GRAND RAPIDS – Charley Bayer knew he had at least broken a pair of much-wanted records, but the real shock came after he climbed out of the pool following his last dive.

With one dive to go at Saturday’s Lower Peninsula Division 3 Finals, the East Grand Rapids senior knew he had already broken the Calvin University pool and LPD3 Finals records. But that didn’t compare with smashing Michigan’s all-class/division Finals record with his final dive. The result concluded a dynamic, once-in-lifetime performance with a score of 590.85.

The mark broke former Ann Arbor native, University of Michigan All-American and Olympic silver medalist Bruce Kimball’s previous mark of 584.75 set 41 years ago. Bayer’s previous best was a 555 at this season’s Division 3 Invite.

“It wasn’t on my radar,” Bayer said of the new mark. “I was going for the Calvin and D3 records. “It was the most put-together, most consistent diving ever for me. I can look back and things couldn’t have been better. I feel really good about it.”

Bayer, who will dive for South Carolina next season, admitted he could find little room for things he could have improved upon. He had scored a 399.45 in Friday’s first day of diving.

“There is no such thing as perfect,” he said. “But I’m so happy with this. I did as well as I could.”

The performance helped East Grand Rapids successfully repeat as champion. The Pioneers, who feature a roster of barely a dozen swimmers, finished with 272 points to outdistance a heavily west-wide showing. Holland Christian finished runner-up with 214 points, Spring Lake was third with 191 and Grand Rapids Christian fourth with 187 points. Five of the top seven finishers were from the state’s west side.

Like many of the meet’s coaches, EGR diving coach Tylor Fick said he was left in awe of Bayer’s performance.

“I’ve never seen a high school diver, or coached against, someone with that talent,” he said. “What he did this weekend was incredible. He is a mix of talent and hard work and dedication. Overall, he’s just a great, humble young man.”

The state title was the 11th boys crown to go along with 25 girls Finals championships for coach Butch Briggs. It was the seventh time Briggs’ boys and girls teams have won championships in the same school year. In all, EGR has won 51 boys and girls state Class BCD or Division 3 titles.

“It’s the same old story but with different kids,” said Briggs, who began coaching swimmers when he was 20 and is now 73. “Every team is very unique, and this team was a challenge to coach and they came through. It’s a group of individuals and it took our captains a whole lot to get them together as a team.”

Bayer’s stunning showing aside, the Pioneers managed one other first when Carter Kegle won the 500-yard freestyle (4:34.68).

Two swimmers won two events each, including Andrew Dobrzanski of Milan who captured the 200 free (1:41.66) and 100 breaststroke (54.45), the latter breaking the LPD3 Finals record. Dobrzanski said the title came after struggling with back problems early in the season, a tired shoulder midway through the winter and missing a week and a half with other ailments in February. Still, Dobrzanski, who said he never felt completely healthy until a couple weeks ago, thought he would be in the hunt for a crown.

“I knew I had a chance just because of how I am and having the experience of being here before,” he said. “It was more satisfying because of what I went through. But I thought it could be a little difficult.”

The other double winner was Tyler Ray of Pinckney who won the 100 backstroke (50.05) and the 100 butterfly (47.39).

“I think there was more riding on the fly because that’s my best event,” he said. “In the backstroke I was just focused on getting to the wall.”

One of the meet’s winners, Charles Brown of Spring Lake, found himself basking in a moment of revenge in winning the 50 free (20.32). He was runner-up at the wire in that event a year ago. He promised himself it wouldn’t happen two years in a row.

“I just got touched out last year, so I just put more work into it this year,” said Brown, who was also on the winning 200 medley relay team (1:36.11). “That motivated me a lot; I wasn’t going to lose by a point again.”

The meet’s other individual winners were Erik Bolang of Pinckney in the 200 individual medley (1:52.82) and Ben Sytsma of Grand Rapids Christian in the 100 free (45.63). Grand Rapids Christian also won the 400 free (3:08.73) and 200 free (1:26.04) relays.

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PHOTOS (Top) The East Grand Rapids boys swimming & diving team shows its latest Finals championship trophy. (Middle) The Pioneers’ Charley Bayer gets high off the board during one of his dives. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com

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