As a sophomore and senior, Adam DeJong and Grant Burtch were champions at Canham Natatorium.
High school state meet champions, that is.
But the current Michigan freshman and junior hope that, as a sophomore and senior in college, they will be Big Ten champions in the same pool.
DeJong and Burtch won the 2004 Michigan High School Athletic Association Division I state championships while attending Holland High School. Next season, they will again compete in Ann Arbor while attempting to add another championship to their history as teammates.
The athletes swam together for two years at Holland and for four years as part of the West Michigan Swimmers club team. The club gained exposure while both athletes and DeJong’s brother, Chris, were on the team.
Chris, a Big Ten record holder and five-time All-American, swam for the Wolverines from 2002 to 2006.
“When my brother was there, West Michigan was smaller, but now it’s a much more competitive (swimming club),” DeJong said. “We helped build it. Now, there are a few (Division) II and (Division) III athletes, but not many (Division) I schools recruit from West Michigan.”
Michigan coach Bob Bowman chose to recruit DeJong after coaching Chris, but noted that the strong emphasis on stroke development at their club program also contributed to his recruiting decision.
“Adam’s been coming to meets and was always a Michigan fan,” Bowman said. “We felt like he would want to be involved with Michigan, and we were thrilled to pursue him.”
Before coming to Michigan, the two athletes set Division 1 state records as seniors in high school – Burtch in the 100-yard breaststroke (2004) and DeJong in the 500-yard freestyle (2006) – and both earned high school All-American honors.
Burtch, a current Michigan co-captain, was also the Holland swimming captain as a senior. DeJong said that having his former high school captain as the leader of his new team has improved his transition to collegiate swimming.
“In Holland, we lived a few blocks away from each other and we drove to practice (together) every morning,” Burtch said, laughing. “I think I know what to expect from him. I can get on him and keep him in line.”
Said DeJong: “Grant was looking at a lot of schools (during his senior year), more than I was. He being here helps out a lot.”
Though just a freshman, DeJong has already earned an NCAA ‘B’ time with an 800-meter freestyle relay. During the past three years, Burtch has earned NCAA All-American Honorable Mention, participated in the U.S. World Championship Trials and finished fifth at the Big Ten Championships.
In 2008, Burtch hopes to finish his collegiate swimming career the same as in high school – with a team title in Ann Arbor. And the junior feels that, by 2010, his longtime teammate can help Michigan to be an NCAA champion.
“I want Michigan to win a national championship sometime while Adam’s still on this team,” Burtch said. “It’s a challenging but realistic goal.”