Girls Swimming Rewind: Pioneer seniors lead the way to back-to-back state titles

Take a step out of the water for just a moment and look up at the big board. It’s an impressive history that the Pioneer girls’ swimming and diving program has been able to put in the history books over the years. It’s not only impressive but unequalled.

It goes back to the days of legendary coach Dennis Hill, who guided the Pioneers to their first state title in 1979 and then rang up another 15 championships in Lower Peninsula Class A or Division 1. One of Hill’s former swimmers is keeping that tradition alive.

Now in her sixth year as head coach, Stefanie Kerska coached the Pioneers to a D-1 girls’ state title last year. It was the school’s first state title in a dozen years – they only had to wait a dozen months this time for their next one.

Last season’s state title was complete dominance as the Pioneers finished first by 184 points. With most of that team returning, it was pretty clear who the favorite would be heading into 2021. Kerska simplified the goals and made sure her swimmers kept the focus on themselves.

“We just had to take care of ourselves all season,” Kerska said to “As nice as it may seem to be out so far in front, we made it a point to not get complacent, to not cut corners and, like I said, to not take our foot off the gas.

“So, that was really the challenge of the year, to just stay motivated, still being as dominant as we were this year.”

The strategy worked as the Pioneers cruised to their second straight Division 1 State Title, finishing first with 247 points at the State Finals in Holland on Nov. 20. Brighton was a distant second with 217.5 points.

It was quite a finish for quite a run for the Pioneer senior class. That group of swimmers and divers never lost a dual-meet in their four years. They won three SEC Red championships, two state titles, a second place at States won their last eight relays at the state finals. Five of the seniors are going on to swim Division 1 in college.

The Pioneers started strong at the state meet, winning the medley relay. The team of Stella Chapman, Edwina Jalet, Holly Pringle and Sophia Guo went 1:44.16 to take first place.

The second event featured another first-place finish for the Pioneers. Senior Lily Cramer went 1:48.95 to take first in the 200 freestyle. Vivian VanRenterghem, another outstanding senior, went 1:50.51 to finish third as Pioneer went 1-3 in the first individual race of the meet.

The third event was another Pioneer victory as Chapman, only a sophomore, took first place in the 200 IM with a time of 2:01.98. And, once again, Pioneer also took third as senior Edwina Jalet took the bronze with a time of 2:04.44.

So, let’s recap. Pioneer opened with a win in the medley relay, then went first and third in the first two individual events. Yeah, pretty nice start.

In the 50 freestyle, Guo, a junior, touched fourth in 23.69 to bring home more points for the champions.

Senior Alexandra Mercier capped off her amazing career by taking third in diving with 393.25 points.

In the 100 fly, Pringle, a senior, was third in 57.48 and senior Lindsay Orringer-Hau was sixth in 58.11.

VanRenterghem touched fourth in the 100 free in 51.48 and Guo was sixth in 51.73.

Orringer-Hau was sixth in the 500 free in 5:05.69.

The Pioneers won the 200 free relay as the team of Cramer, VanRenterghem, Amelia Weyhing and Guo touched first in 1:34.09.

Senior Alexandra Mercier.

Pioneer dominated the 100 backstroke. Chapman was second (55.57), Pringle took third (56.13) and senior Autumn Bullinger was sixth (57.89).

Cramer set a Pioneer varsity record with her second-place finish time of 1:01.81 in the breaststroke. In a very close finish, Livonia Stevenson’s McKenzie Siroky was first in 1:00.85. Jalet was fourth in 1:03.17 for the Pioneers.

Pioneer completed the sweep of the relays as the team of VanRenterghem, Chapman, Pringle and Cramer touched first in 3:25.39 to win the 400 free relay.

Pioneer took first place at the SEC Red League Meet earlier in the month with 642 points, well ahead of second-place Saline (504 points). They went undefeated in dual-meets for the fourth consecutive year.