Sunday Feature: Three seniors helped splash way to Dexter’s state title

It takes a team effort to win a state title but the Dexter swimming and diving team certainly had some standout performers leading the way to the Division 2 MHSAA championship at Saginaw Valley State University earlier this month.

And these three seniors, along with Rob Zofchak (who was profiled earlier in the season by We Love Dexter), helped lead the Dreadnaughts to their second title in five years.

David Merz was eighth in 200 freestyle to give Dexter three swimmers earning points. “David was a senior captain who really came through at the state meet,” said Dexter Coach Michael McHugh.

Matt Bergdolt was second in the 200 free and fourth in the 100 free for the Dreads at the state meet. “Matt finished just behind Rob in the 200 and was fourth in a loaded 100 free field, which was a new event for him this year,” McHugh said.

And Jimmy Morgan was an “emotional leader” for Dexter. “He didn’t have the meet he envisioned but never let it get to him,” McHugh said. “He was always about the bigger picture and the team goal.”

All three swam on Dexter’s 200 free relay team which placed third overall. And all three also swam on the 400 free relay team which placed second.

Let’s meet these three Dexter swimmers.

Senior David Merz, 17, is the son of Scott and Julie Merz. Merz, who also played water polo, will attend Xavier University in Cincinnati. “I’ve visited the campus a couple times now and I really like the environment,” he said. “Right now my plan is to major in marketing and minor in international marketing.”

When and why did you start swimming? “I started swimming when I was 6. I live down the street from the Ann Arbor Country Club so it was pretty convenient. Most of my friends were going to be on the swim team so I asked my mom if she would sign me up.”

What was your off-season training like preparing for this season? “Usually during the offseason I would train with DCAC but last summer I went to Club Wolverine which was a much different experience. We practiced at Eastern Michigan’s pool and the training was much more intense.”

What motivates you to get up in the morning and swim before school? “Winning a State Championship. There was never a practice that I didn’t think about what it would be like to win a state title.”

What was the personality of this past Dexter team? “It’s just a really funny group of guys. There are so many interesting personalities on the team but you become pretty close with everyone since you spend so much time together. Some of my best high school memories are with this team, I’ll miss being with everyone.”

Why were you guys so successful? “Going into the season everyone knew that winning a state championship was the goal, so that mindset really helped to motivate the team throughout the season. This team also has a lot of depth which is huge.”

What have been the key(s) to Dexter’s swimming success over the years? “There aren’t too many other teams that have five morning practices a week or swim as much yardage as we do over winter break. You learn to put a lot of trust in coach because he really knows what he’s doing and he’s really passionate about the team.”

Matt Bergdolt, 17, is the son of Steve and Julie Bergdolt. The senior has a 3.6 GPA and is still deciding between Michigan State and Michigan Tech. He plans on studying engineering.

When and why did you start swimming? “When I was 8 years old I started because it seemed like fun at the time.”

What did you like about it compared to other sports? “The family atmosphere (especially through high school). No team that I had ever been on was nearly as close as we all are on the swim team.”

What was your off-season training like preparing for this season? “I would do Dexter community aquatic club practices twice a day and mix in some water polo through all that. I usually had two, often times three practices a day.”

What motivates you to get up in the morning and swim before school? “I know it’s part of the system that Coach McHugh has implemented and without it we wouldn’t do what we did at the state meet.”

What was the personality of this past Dexter team? “We were a cool, calm and collected team when it came to our meets. We all really like each other and that helps in and out of the water. Staying loose throughout meets also leads to better performances.”

Why were you guys so successful? “Hard work. We all came in each and every day to get better and improve as a team. Also Coach McHugh is a great coach and knows what he’s doing when it comes to coaching us up.”

What have been the key(s) to Dexter’s swimming success over the years? “Hard work both in and out of season. People make the most improvements in the offseason and then they just have to continue that work through the span of the season.”

Jimmy Morgan, 18, is the son of Mary and Chris Morgan. The senior has a 3.97 GPA and played soccer and runs track for the Dreads. He is most likely headed to the University of Michigan where he plans on studying finance or econ. “It has a great business school and both of my sisters attended here,” he said. “I absolutely love the sport of swimming and may peruse club swimming.”

When and why did you start swimming? “I started swimming at the age of 5 at DCAC. My entire family had swam and my sister Bridget had a lot of success in the pool so it just made sense for me to swim.”

What did you like about swimming compared to other sports? “I liked the fact that if you put in the work you would improve and be successful. I was never the most talented but I always worked my hardest.”

What was your off-season training like preparing for this season? “Throughout my high school career I swam at Plymouth-Canton Cruisers my freshman in the off season and Club Wolverine my sophomore, junior, and senior year. I competed at sectionals for my championship meet over the summers.”

What motivates you to get up in the morning and swim before school? “As difficult as it is too force yourself out of bed, you know getting in the water will make you better. I always focused on my weaknesses in the mornings. I saw those practices as an opportunity to get better.”

What was the personality of this team? “This past year’s Dexter team was all about having fun. We were very focused and set our goal to win states, but the atmosphere was extremely positive and silly.”

Why were you guys so successful? “Ever since the class of 2016’s freshman year, we wanted to win states as seniors.We knew we had the chance to finally fulfill our long time goal. We knew we had to work our hardest if we wanted to be champions.”

Why has the Dexter HS program been so successful? “Swimming is a big deal in the Dexter community. I’ve swam with some of my teammates since I began swimming. Coach McHugh is also excellent at developing mid-distance freestylers. The constant hard practices bonded the team together and people really began to step up. Our depth was crucial this year.”

What are your future plans as far as swimming? “Swimming will always have a special place in my heart. I’m currently playing water polo but would like to continue swimming in some way in college. I’m just happy that my last meet was with my best friends, winning a state title.”

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