By Bethany Williston / For WLAA
Because of COVID-19 precautions, only 24 to 30 athletes are allowed to compete at swimming and diving dual-meets this season. With 51 athletes on the talented Pioneer roster, that meant a good number were unable to swim for their team.
The Pioneer coaches – led by Head Coach Stef Kerska – did a great job of rotating the swimmers from the different groups on the team to allow more of them to get meet experience. However, this was still not enough to get everyone in the water.
In an effort to provide racing opportunities for all of the swimmers, Pioneer hosted two intra-squad meets. The second one took place on Saturday at Hill Pool. Despite the shortened winter season, this group of athletes, coached by Pat and Jennifer Zakrajsek, showed that they had been dedicated, hard-working and focused.
The meet began with a close race between the A and B 200 Medley Relays with the B narrowly edging out the win 1:52.78 to 1:52.84. The B relay consisted of Raymond Yuan, Young Jun, Liam Herbert, and Will Kim. The A relay had Mathieu Ruelle, Tobias Tang, Kevin Li, and Ari Jacob. The third-place relay team finished in 2:05.62 with Alex Serr, Jack Fagan, Nolan Donovan, and Tushar Chaudhary.
The 200 freestyle was a close race between two pairs. Zach Edwards and Luke Packard went stroke for stroke until Edwards pulled ahead in the final lap breaking the 2 minute barrier for the first time in 1:59.28 to Packard’s 2:00.73. The second pair also swam together the whole race with Kenyon Neal just out touching Porter Malcolm 2:07.01 to 2:07.83.
Jun won the 200 IM in 2:14.83, Jacob took second (2:19.47), and Tang third (2:32.46).
The always popular 50 freestyle event was a close race with Ruelle taking the win (24.25), followed by Herbert (24.78), Kim (25.56), Fagan (26.21), Li (26.72), and Chaudhary (27.07).
Herbert won the 100 fly in 1:00.39, not quite as fast as his challenge against Anthony Gibbons on Tuesday night but still over 5 seconds faster than last year’s time. He was followed by Packard (1:04.02), Donovan (1:07.59), Li (1:13.54), and Shahmir Nasser (1:19.12). It’s worth noting that this was Nasser’s first time swimming the 100 fly.
The 100 freestyle was won by Raymond Yuan who broke a minute for the first time swimming a 59.02. He was followed by Quinn Campbell (1:03.94), and Calvin Anderson (1:05.23).
One of the most exciting events was also the longest event of the day. Zach Edwards won the 500 freestyle in 5:31.62. This time is 9 seconds faster than the time he swam at the first intra-squad meet three weeks ago. Likewise, second place Kenyon Neal dropped 20 seconds from the first meet and third place Porter Malcolm dropped 12 seconds!
As with the dual meets, the coaches put all of the 500 freestyle swimmers in back-to-back events. As soon as they climbed out of the water from finishing the 500, they lined up to swim the 200 freestyle relay. Packard led with a 25.66, Edwards split 25.85 the second time this season he’s been under 26, while Malcolm and Neal earned best times with 26.08 and 26.36, respectively.
Ruelle led the 100 back from the start, touching in 1:03.74. In a close race for second, Yuan just out touched Serr 1:12.16 to 1:12.99. They were followed by Marton Flautner (1:15.44) and Xavier Vettorello (1:21.79). Serr dropped 5 seconds, Flautner 7 seconds, and Vettorello 6 seconds from the first meet.
The most popular event of the day was the 100 breaststroke. So popular, in fact, that Ari Jacob swam it during the 100 freestyle heat. The winner of the event was Jun in 1:07.69. Second place Tang (1:12.28), adding in third place Jacob (1:12.73), next was Kim (1:15.31), and Fagan (1:18.89). Fifth place Thomas McTigue dropped 2 seconds from the first meet (1:20.60) and sixth place Luke Silva dropped 4 seconds from the first meet (1:21.38).
Almost all swimmers competed in the final event of the meet: the 400 freestyle relay. Highlights of the relay swims include best times by Jun (53.88), Jacob (55.48), Edwards (56.39), Malcolm (57.12), Kim (59.98), Fagan (1:00.66), Tang (1:01.56), Li (1:03.13), and Patel (1:09.39).
The largest time drops came from the following swimmers. Anderson’s time of 1:04.95 was nearly 5 seconds faster than the first intra-squad meet. Silva’s time of 1:03.48 was 5.5 seconds faster than his time at the previous meet. Chaudhary dropped 6 seconds from last year’s season (1:03.97). Donovan dropped 7 seconds from last year (1:01.92). Finally, Thomas McTigue dropped 10 seconds from the first meet to split a 1:12.10.
MAIN PHOTO: Zach Edwards
PHOTOS BY: Martha Wagner