There are only four walls surrounding the Hill natatorium at Pioneer High School. But at some point, the school district is going to have to approve funding to build a fifth wall because four walls won’t be able to hold all the state championship banners. The Pioneer boys’ swimming & diving team brought home another one on Saturday after a dominating performance at the MHSAA’s Lower Peninsula Division 1 Swimming and Diving State Finals.
The Pioneers racked up 365 points at the Holland Aquatic Center to win their second straight D-1 State Finals. Northville was a distant runner-up with 267 points, followed by Holland West Ottawa in third (195), Saline fourth (187.50) and Macomb Dakota fifth (157). Huron finished with 46 points and placed 16th.
Legendary Pioneer swim coaches Liz and Denny Hill won a combined 31 Division 1 state titles (15 boys; 16 girls) during their tenure running the program. Head Coach Stephanie Kerska has brought home four state titles in the last two years as both the boys and girls teams have gone back-to-back. The girls won it all in November also in Holland.
Pioneer used its incredible depth and success in the relays (two first-place finishes) to put this meet in the win column. They also featured some incredible front-line swimmers. Pioneer touched first in four individual races and were second in three other individual races.
Pioneer set varsity records in five events: 50 free, 100 free, 100 back, 500 free and the 400 freestyle relay.
And the seniors – who never lost a dual-meet in four years – led the way over the weekend.
Senior Ryan Hume repeated in the 200-yard individual medley (1:49.44) and also won the 500 freestyle (4:26.65) after finishing second last year in the 500 free. He also swam on the winning 400 free relay team.
“It was a great way to finish our season and the senior class’ final year,” said Hume. “It was an exciting meet, a ton of great swims, and a lot of guys made it to the podium.”
Hume said there were plenty of emotions swimming in the water during the meet – and after.
“There were a ton of emotions,” he said. “I was extremely happy we accomplished our team goals and that I was able to reach some personal goals, but I found myself tearing up a bit at the end knowing it was over. I love this team.”
Senior Jack Wilkening won the 100 free (45.06) and was a very close second in the 100 backstroke (48.47) – Rochester’s Jack VanHowe won the race in 48.13. Senior Teodor Jaworski touched first in the 200 free (1:39.45) and also was second in the 500 free as the Pioneers went one-two in the event.
Pioneer bookended the meet with first-place finishes. The team of Wilkening, seniors Robert Yang and Alex Farmer along with junior Gabriel Sanchez-Burks won the 200 medley relay in 1:31.91. Saline was second in 1:33.40. The team of Yang, Harrison Sanders, Wilkening and Hume won the final race, the 400 free relay, in 3:06.39.
In the 200 free, Jaworski narrowly beat Canton’s Ryan Gurgel to the wall. Jaworski’s time was 1:39.45 to Gurgel’s 1:39.78. Sanders took fourth (1:41.43) for Pioneer and Huron’s Drew Lindstrom was seventh in 1:43.07.
In the 200 IM, not only did Hume touch first but Caleb Rice was seventh (1:55.36) and Christopher Leuciuc was eighth (1:56.36) for Pioneer. That’s 43 points in one event.
Sanchez-Burks took second in the 50 free in 20.60, finishing just behind Kevin Maas (20.58).
Pioneer sophomore Gabriel Mercier was fifth in diving with 365.90 points.
Yang was sixth in the butterfly in 50.84.
Pioneer had three in the top eight in the 100 free. Wilkening took first with Sanders sixth (46.57) and Sanchez-Burks seventh (46.75).
Huron’s Lindstrom was third in the 500 free in 4:36.58.
The Pioneer team of Sanchez-Burks, Sanders, Farmer and Hume took second in the 200 free relay in 1:24.11. Northville took first in 1:23.88.
Rice was fourth for Pioneer in the backstroke in 52.56.