There’s a long wait for a thrill ride that is over in a few moments.
For Zacek, he’s endured through more than seven months of grueling training inside the Spring Lake Aquatic Center — sometimes before school started in the morning — to be able to put together his best showing at the Division 3 state finals in events that are over in literally minutes — if that.
With a pair of state titles now on his resume, Zacek can easily say it was time well spent.
The Lakers’ senior — arguably the most decorated swimmer in school history — captured titles in both the 200-yard freestyle and 100 butterfly at Saturday’s finals held at Oakland University, capping a stellar four-year prep career.
Zacek becomes the first Spring Lake swimmer ever to win two events at one state meet. His strong showing also helped Spring Lake finish eighth in the team standings at the meet with 108 points. St. Joseph won the state title with 250 points.
“It really seems like a fantasy right now,” Zacek said. “The last 50 yards (of the 200) I remember looking to my left and right to see if anyone was close and I remember thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I think I might win this.’”
To see more photos from Saturday's Division 3 state finals, click here.
His best previous finish at the state finals was second in the 200 free last season.
This time, Zacek finished the event in 1 minute, 41.78 seconds, which improved on Spring Lake’s school record time that was already in his name. He beat out runner-up Cody Wolfrom of Bloomfield Hills Lahser by over 3 seconds.
“I was actually a little disappointed,” Zacek said. “I thought I could have broke into the 1:30s. But to see my personal best come up on the board, I can’t complain.”
Zacek was used to the pressure of the state finals, but said Oakland University ran a quick meet, which gave him little time to prepare in the cool-down pool between his two individual events. But Zacek said a fun perk at the event was the pre-event hype build-up for the winners of the preliminary heats in each event, which were held on Friday.
“It was cool because each prelim winner got to pick the entrance music,” he said. “You’re swimming in the middle lane and everyone’s talking about you, so it’s a lot of fun.”
Zacek said he picked a pair of rap songs from artists T-Pain and Nelly to get him hyped up for the events.
Aside from his teammates in attendance, Zacek had several friends and family members cheering him on, including his dad, Michael Sr., older brother Michael Jr., and sisters Erin and Emily. Of course, his mother, Penny, was on the sidelines as the coach of the Spring Lake varsity team.
“It was an exciting day, I can’t lie,” Penny Zacek said.
The excitement was kicked up a notch during the 100 butterfly, as Zacek needed every ounce of stamina to beat out St. Joseph’s Aaron Moyer. Zacek touched the wall in 51.52 seconds, less than two-tenths of a second faster than Moyer.
“It’s a really fun race to compete in and it sounded like it was really fun for the people in the crowd to watch as well,” Zacek said.
Zacek said he was proud of the way his teammates performed as well, includling Andrew Hintz, who shattered a nearly 20-year Spring Lake record in the backstroke by clocking in at 55.49. The finish was good for fifth overall.
“It’s days like Saturday that are so satisfying not only because of how well I did, but how well the team did,” Zacek said.
Junior diver Erik Lukkari also had a strong day, placing ninth overall with a finals score of 351.70.
“It was a great meet to cap off a great year for him,” said Spring Lake diving coach Tom Knight.
In relay action, Spring Lake’s top finish came in the 200 medley relay, which featured Zacek, Hintz, Peter Rick and Trevor Billinghurst. They placed seventh in a time of 1:40.91.
The Lakers’ 400 freestyle relay team of Jared Knorr, Zacek, Billinghurst and Hintz placed ninth.