Profile: Jack Shemke exits Pioneer as a champion – in more ways than one

When the awards came out, Jack Shemke was right there on the top of the list – and for very good reason. The Pioneer senior was named First Team All-State and First Team All-Tournament by the Michigan Water Polo Association (MWPA) after an amazing 2021 season.

The Pioneers defeated Grand Haven to win the bronze medal and finished third at the Men’s Water Polo State Championships State Finals. Pioneer finished fourth in 2019 and had not placed higher since 2013 when they took third in the state.

Individually, Shemke had a gold-medal season. He had 55 goals, 34 assists and 65 steals in 23 games for the Pioneers. And he had a blast every splash of the way.

“What made this season so great is that it was a season that almost didn’t even happen,” says Shemke. “When the season was first moved from fall to the spring due to Covid, if someone had asked me if I honestly thought that we would have a season, I would’ve said no.”

When the season finally began, after just one week of practice, Ann Arbor Public Schools sports were placed on a one week pause. Shemke said this further discouraged his belief that they would ever get in the water to compete.

However, thanks to the safety protocols and the Pioneers being safe throughout the season, they were able to have a successful season.

“This season was really special to me because I was elected to be the captain of such a great group of guys that work extremely hard and are very dedicated to the sport,” he says. “Our success is owed to those on the team that stepped up when they needed to as well as to those that found their role on the team and embraced it. Without them, we wouldn’t have made it to the point that we did.”

Success is about people stepping up and the Pioneers did exactly that and climbed the ladder to third place in the state.

“Through various injuries on the team, there was always someone to step up which was crucial to our success,” Shemke says. “Also, we have an outstanding coaching staff that all contributed to the team’s success in different ways. I had a great season and had a lot of fun.”

Shemke also had great success and a lot of fun as a member of Pioneer’s state champion swimming and diving team. In his fourth year on the team, Shemke mostly swam the 50 and 100 freestyle. His fastest time for the 50 on the season was a 22.56 and for the 100 was a 49.63.

“Our swimming season was great because of the way that everyone on the team strived to become better,” he said. “Every day at practice everyone gave it their all and worked the hardest that they could. This led to amazing performances in meets when it mattered.”

Shemke said winning states in 2021 was especially rewarding because of how heartbreaking it was to have the state finals cancelled last year due to the pandemic.

“We bounced back this year, worked really hard, and won the championship,” he says.

Jack, 18, the son of Dan and Amy Shemke, had a 4.0 GPA at Pioneer. He will attend Michigan State University this fall and play water polo for the Spartans and study human biology.