While the entire world deals with the challenges of the Coronovirus and the importance of staying informed with the latest news and information, we here at WeloveAnnArbor.com will present a series of feature stories throughout the month of April highlighting the successes, accomplishments and dreams of our family, friends and neighbors right here in Ann Arbor. We hope these stories are not only a pleasant diversion, but also entertaining, informative and even inspiring.
Really good swimmers will tell you that hard work is built into your routine and every time you jump in the water there is something to be accomplished.
Vivian VanRenterghem is one of those really good swimmers at Pioneer High School, and she enjoyed an impressive sophomore season this past year. Like many of her teammates, VanRenterghem sets goals and goes out and accomplishes them and then moves on to the next one. Rinse and repeat.
But VanRenterghem’s routine has been disrupted and she’s been trying her best to figure out how to keep pace with some very high expectations she has set for herself.
“I miss learning, and having a solid routine,” says VanRenterghem, who earned All-American honors as a member of Pioneer’s state-champion 400 freestyle relay team. “I miss my peers and teachers. Along with that, I immensely miss training with my team and spending time with my teammates and coaches.
“It was devastating for our season to be cut short, right before the hard work was going to pay off, a similar situation to athletes all over Ann Arbor.”
VanRenterghem does understand the reasons why all of this is happening and realizes it’s a small sacrifice considering what others are going through at the moment. “Although temporarily losing my sport is far from optimal, I try and keep in mind the more detrimental effects of the Coronavirus, like lost jobs, and lost loved ones,” she says.
She is taking the positive road through all of this and continues to train at home as much as possible. “I miss the water a lot, but running and continuing with dryland to stay in shape isn’t too bad,” she says. “With all my newfound free time I am catching up on books and movies I’ve been waiting to read/watch, and spending time with family members.”
VanRenterghem’s sophomore season was nothing short of sensational.
She was SEC All-Conference in the 200 free and 100 free and also as a member of the 200 and 400 freestyle relays. She was All-State in the 200 freestyle after finishing second overall at the state meet and All-State as a member of the Pioneers’ winning 400 free relay.
As she says, the season was “full of highlights.”
“For me personally, placing second in the 200 freestyle was definitely a highlight,” she says. “Getting the opportunity to be on the 400 freestyle relay, win a state title, and achieve All-American was one of my favorite moments.”
VanRenterghem says she has always struggled with pre-race anxiety, and learning how to control that was a big focus of hers this past season.
“I received immense support from Stef (head coach Stefanie Kerska), and although the end of the season was stressful, I’ve come a long way from the previous year,” she says.
The Pioneers took second in the state after finishing seventh the year before. They finished with 297.5 points, just a half point behind Farmington Hills Mercy at the MHSAA Division 1 State Finals at the Holland Aquatic Center.
From an outsider’s perspective, getting second by half a point might seem devastating, for us as a team, it really wasn’t,” she says. “We are a young team, and our state team consisted of one upperclassmen (a junior). At the end of the meet, when I and the other girls found ourselves feeling disappointed, Stef did not hesitate to remind us where our focus remains. We had a great weekend in Holland. We had fun, we dropped tons of time, and we carried ourselves with maturity and focus through both prelims and finals. That is everything we had worked for.
But VanRenterghem says the real highlights of last season were in the little moments.
“On Saturday morning practice after back-to-back meets, frozen yogurt between prelims and finals, the locker room after an especially tough set,” she says. “For me, times like those were the highlights. I truly could not ask for a better coach and team to do this with.”
Successful people usually love what they are doing and VanRenterghem clearly loves, not only what she is doing, but whom she is doing it with.
“My experiences swimming for Pioneer are easily some of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” she says. “I finished up my second season this year, and I am ecstatic looking to the next two. As a freshman I was a little nervous, but after the first few days of training, I was excited for the rest of the season, and the three years to come. My first year was great, I had absolutely amazing coaches and had never in my swimming career received so much support and guidance.”
VanRenterghem has been swimming competitively swimming since the third grade. Her parents (Cynthia and Rob VanRenterghem) insisted that she learn how to swim because they would spend parts of their summer visiting Lake Michigan.
“I took swim lessons, which ironically, I hated,” she says. “I didn’t like having my face in the water. However, once I started my first season on the summer league, and began racing, I knew swimming was the sport for me. I love the water, and getting to train and compete in it was enticing to a 7 year old me.”
When she hit fourth grade, she joined Club Wolverine, another “amazing” team she gets to swim for.
“Club Wolverine is much larger than Pioneer’s team, but it still a special and valuable experience,” she says. “I get to train there for the majority of the year, and work on long course events. It is the foundation of my swimming, and I love, and right now, deeply miss swimming there.”
VanRenterghem’s long-term plans, of course, include swimming.
“I would love to swim in college, and look forward to getting to begin the process of looking next year,” she says. “I am mainly focused on continuing to work hard, have fun, and continue to grow both mentally and physically as a swimmer.
“My club team is going to NCSA’s this summer, and focusing on long-course swimming which I am very excited for. I cannot wait to get back to the sport I love, and continue to put in work and progress.”