Boys Varsity Swimming · Dow High’s Mork off to fantastic start to his swim season

dan chalk Midland Daily News

Dow High’s Nehemiah Mork is in a class by himself as a swimmer, as he’s shown in an incredible first week of the season.

After breaking the school record in the 200-yard freestyle in the Pangborn Invitational on Tuesday at Saginaw Valley State University, Mork came back three days later and broke three Dow pool records on Friday night in a dual meet against Bay City Central.

Mork, who’s only a junior, broke the pool records in the 50 freestyle (21.15 seconds), 100 freestyle (46.34), and 200 freestyle (1:42.15) — with his 50 free record coming on the first leg of the 200 freestyle relay.

“I was pretty surprised (to break three pool records),” Mork said. “It was my goal (to break some records this season), but I wasn’t sure I could do it.”

The 200 free was the first of those three events to take place on Friday, followed later by the 100 free, and finally the 200 free relay.

“I was really excited after I broke the first record, and even more so after the second one,” Mork said. “And my teammates on the 200 free relay really got me pumped up to try to break the 50 free record.”

Dow coach Gary Strickler has seen many elite swimmers in his 14 seasons, and he said that Mork’s feat of breaking three pool records in one night was quite special.

“That’s very unusual, especially for this early in the season,” said Strickler. “Those pool records are pretty darn fast. Two of them were Brad (Craig’s) and one was Mike Pankratz’s.”

Craig — who has competed at two U.S. Olympic Trials and who recently raced in the Short Course World Championships — had set his 50 free record of 21.49 in 2006 and his 100 free record of 47.22 in 2007 for Dow, and Pankratz had set his 200 free record of 1:44.53 in 2006 for Dow.

“Over the years, we’ve seen a lot of really good swimmers come through Dow High,” Strickler noted. “To set those records is a significant accomplishment.”

And the 6-foot, 2-inch Mork is poised to achieve a lot more by the end of the season in March.

“Right now he’s probably the favorite to win the 50 free and the 100 free at the (Division 2) state finals,” Strickler said.

The coach said Mork could reach greater heights than former Dow swimmers Jackson Goethe and Gabe Strickler did in the sprint freestyle events.

Goethe won the 50 free at state in 2012 and won the 50 free and 100 free at state the following year as a senior. He now swims for the University of Michigan. Strickler won the 100 free in 2006 as a senior and was a part of back-to-back state championships in the 200 medley relay and 400 free relay in 2005 and 2006 before going on to compete for Michigan State.

“We watched Jackson go through the same sort of development (as Mork), and Gabe went through it also,” Strickler said. “I see that same talent level (in Mork). I think he’s going to get (to a high level) a year sooner than the other guys did. He’s going to be a little ahead of where Gabe and Jackson were, with a little more long-term potential.

“I’d like to see him go 45 (seconds) flat (in the 100 free). That’s a reasonable target,” Strickler added. “That would put him in the top-tier group nationally.”

Mork actually competed in the USA Swimming Junior Nationals meet last weekend in Seattle, swimming in the 50 free and 100 free as well as in the 200 free time trial.

“I had already swum some personal-best times at the Junior Nationals, so I was ready to go when the high school season started,” he said.