Four years ago, a fearsome foursome was in the midst of “Hell Week” at Saline High School. Seniors Adam Whitener, David Boland, Josh Ehrman and Michael Bundas slogged through grueling two-a-day practices during winter break to prep for the state meet.
All that work paid off handsomely. The foursome led Saline to its fourth straight swim and dive championship, defeating Birmingham Brother Rice by just four points. Saline won 10 of the 11 swimming events. Whitener won the 100 and 200 freestyle, Bundas won the 50 freestyle, Boland won the backstroke and butterfly and Ehrman won the breaststroke and individual medley. All four swimmers helped Saline win the three relays.
In the single relay all four swam together, they shattered a state and national record. With Boland swimming the backstroke, Ehrman the breaststroke, Bundas the fly and Whitener the freestyle, the team swam the 200-yard medley relay in 1:30.01. The state record still stands today.
All four earned scholarships and went on to swim in college. Whitener went to the University of Virginia, Ehrman went to Purdue, David Boland is at Louisville and Bundas swims for the Naval Academy.
They make it a point to get together when they’re all back in town, like they were over the Christmas break.
“These guys are some of my best friends and I think we’ll be in contact for the rest of our lives,” said Whitener, who is majoring in computer science and music.
These days, Whitener is the only one in the bunch that isn’t swimming at a varsity level in college. At Virginia, Whitener swam varsity for two years. The highlight of his swim career swimming on A-team relays at the Atlantic Coast Conference meet in his sophomore year. More recently, he’s taken to coaching. He recently coached the Virginia club team to a fifth-place finish at nationals.
Bundas, Boland and Ehrman are in their final months of their long swim careers. Boland swims for Louisville, also in the ACC. In his first two years, he swam the 100 and 200 fly. Lately he’s shifted to freestyle sprints.
“Swimming with this team is awesome. It’s a different level. High school swimming is fast, but this is something else. You have to elevate your game in college,” said Boland, who is majoring in marking and minoring in computer information systems. ““We have a lot of talent on our team. Every stroke and every discipline, swimmers are getting faster.”
Ehrman graduated from Purdue with a Bachelor of Science in professional flight technology. He’s finishing up a master’s degree in aerospace and aviation management while he preps for the final months of his swim career. He’s swam in three Big 10 championships so far. His last meet will be the NCAA meet.
Like Boland, he’s found the college level far more challenging.
“I think I was pretty well prepared by swimming at Saline, but there’s still a shock factor when you’re swimming in the Big 10. It’s very fast,” Ehrman said. “Everybody is the best of the best at what they do. You don’t have the high school swimmers who just out there to be on the swim team anymore. Everybody is fast.”
Bundas is swimming for the Naval Academy. So far, the highlight of his collegiate swimming career are the Army-Navy meets.
“Navy and Army have a huge rivalry in every sport. The meets are just electric and I’ve been to few meets that compare,” Bundas said. “We’ve got a 26-year streak in swim and dive. We held them off this year.”
Bundas swam on a winning relay team in that meet and finished third in the 50, the event he won when Saline won its 4th straight state title.
With Whitener already out of the game, the other three are just about ready to be done.
“You always hear things from the alumni about how you’ll miss it, but we’re kind of excited to be done swimming,” Bundas said. “I’ll definitely miss being part of the team. But we’re ready to be done. Getting up at 5 a.m. every day and jumping in the water at 5:45. It’s been a lot of work.”
“We’ve been doing it for a long time,” Ehrman added. “We want to go out big, but we’re ready.”
All four swimmers used scholarships to help fund their out-of-state college costs. Boland is about 12 months from graduating. He’s hoping to find a summer internship that will help him determine how he’ll use is marketing and computer information systems degree. Whitener, who will graduate this spring, interned with Ford Motor Company last year and has already been offered a job in Ford’s IT department in Dearborn. Ehrman has already graduated. He is a licensed commercial pilot and he’ll teach flying lessons at Ann Arbor Airport this summer. He hopes to fly for a commercial airliner this fall. Bundas will graduate from the Naval Academy this spring. He’ll then serve five years in the Navy. He’s already been selected for Basic Underwater Demolition/Seal Training – a Navy Seal training program.
Over the break the foursome were sure to spend a few moments with Saline High School swim coach Todd Brunty as he put this year’s team through “Hell Week.” Bundas and Boland called Brunty a mentor who was “crucial” to their success. Ehrman noted that while their club team was shuffling through coaches, Brunty remained an important constant as they learned their craft.
Whitener, Boland, Ehrman and Bundas all seemed to understand the unique place they have in Michigan High School swimming history and in Saline High School Athletics history, but they were too modest to speak about their legacy or the mark they made.
“We knew our records wouldn’t last long,” Boland said. “The kids keep getting faster and faster.”
Brunty, on the other hand, isn’t afraid to speak about what these four young men accomplished.
“There are teams out there that might have two or even three swimmers like our guys, but I don’t know if will ever happen again where you have four elite level kids from one class,” Brunty said. “As a coach, you know that’s probably a once-in-a-lifetime thing. I feel very fortunate to have coached these young men.”
As he watched the four chatting alongside the pool, Brunty said that he’s most impressed by the way the young men have maintained their commitment to each other and their work ethic.
“It’s neat to see that connection they have after nearly four years apart. They’re great young men,” Brunty said. “The great thing about them is that they’ve taken their opportunities and making the most of them. The reason why they’re succeeding is that they are still the same guys. They still put the work in and do all the other things that made them so successful. And they’ll keep doing that when they’re done swimming.”