Profile: Cleason took an unusual but rewarding path to Skyline swimming stardom  


We’ll get to the swimming – but first things first.

David Cleason hasn’t even graduated high school yet but he can swim laps around some people twice his age when it comes to experiences and accomplishments. It’s also led him down a path of appreciating what he has and not taking things for granted.

And that can be as simple as getting to school in the morning.

“I lived in Zurich, Switzerland for sixth and seventh grade,” said the outstanding Skyline senior swimmer. “It was fun. It was hard. It was a whole new experience. But you had to grow up fast over there. To get to school, I would have to ride my scooter down this hill to the train. I took the train to the bus stop. Then the bus to school. It took me 30 minutes to get to school every day.”

Still, he loved every minute of it.

“We were 30 minutes from the Alps,” he said. “I learned how to snowboard and made a lot friends.”

He also learned how to speak German. Well, he didn’t really have a choice.

“When I got there I didn’t speak a word of German,” he said. “But I thought going to swim practice I would be fine. That was the one thing I know but when I went to that first practice I was completely lost. I picked it up pretty quick and I used to be fluent in German.”

And his club swim team was the best team in Switzerland during his two years.

Which leads us to, as promised, swimming.

Cleason gave football and basketball a shot when he was younger but there was something about swimming that made him dive head first into water sports.

“I’ve always been best at swimming,” he said. “We lived in Texas for 11 years before we moved to Switzerland and that’s where I started swimming.”

From Texas to Zurich to Ann Arbor – which is home and will be for another four years after high school. But we’ll get to the Wolverines soon enough.

Cleason moved to Michigan for eighth grade where he joined the prestigious Club Wolverine swim team and met some fellow soon-to-be Skyline swimmers including Michael MacGillivray and Samuel Jyawook.

Cleason quickly made new friends and quickly made a splash both with Club Wolverine and during his freshman year at Skyline. He swam both the 500 free and 200 free at the state meet as a ninth-grader, placing eighth in the 200.

As a sophomore, he swam both the 500 free and the 200 IM where he finished fourth at the state finals helping lead Skyline to a fourth-place overall finish.

Last year was a silver year for Cleason. He was second in both the IM and the 500 free and the Eagles landed in second at the state finals.

This year, the Skyline swimming and diving team is on course for a state championship and Cleason and his fellow seniors are a big part of the flight.

The Eagles were the favorites at the SEC league meet last month at Skyline but expected it to be right down to the last touch. They made sure it didn’t come to that as they exploded off the blocks and never looked back, finishing with 532.5 points, a good lap ahead of second-place Pioneer (443 points).

Cleason was second in the IM (1:52.35) behind teammate MacGillivray as the Eagles landed one-two. He also was third (47.37) in the 200 freestyle.

Cleason, along with MacGillivray, Sam Konigsberg and Kyle Tschannen, won the medley relay in 1 minute, 34.53 seconds. The foursome of Tschannen, Jyawook, Cleason and MacGillivray took first in the 400 free relay in 3:08.67.

The plan is to have both Cleason and MacGillivray will both swim the IM at the state meet. It’s a good plan, too.

“(MacGillivray) has been swimming lights out all year so it will be tough to beat him,” Cleason said. “I’ll give it my best shot though. But our plan is to go one-two.”

Cleason also will swim the 500 free where plans to go one.

“My No. 1 goal is to win states as a team,” he said. “It’s the top priority for this year and I see us doing it. One of the key events will be the 500. We have some really good distance swimmers and should do really well in the 500.”

It all could come down to the 400 free relay. And Cleason and the Eagles would be perfectly fine with that scenario.

“I can see us closing it out by taking first in the 400 free relay,” he said. “It would be a great way to end our last high school meet. It would be a great feeling to win the last event to win the meet.”

After that last meet, Cleason will head to college and will follow in his sister’s (Emma) footsteps and join the Wolverines swim team and attend U-M.

He said he’ll feel right at home on the Michigan campus, especially in the pool.

“My head coach for club used to be an assistant coach for Michigan, we practice at Michigan so I’ve already kind of experienced it from a swimming standpoint,” he said. “I just felt it was the best place for me both academically and athletically.”

And he won’t need a scooter, train and bus to get there.

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