The Pioneer swimming and diving team came within a point of winning the state meet last year so they made a point of racking up enough points where one point wouldn’t matter. Point made – and then some.
“I know they were looking forward to coming back as soon as we got on the bus last year,” Pioneer coach Stephanie Kerska said on Saturday afternoon. “This journey that they’ve been on for the last year has made them really appreciate and never take for granted simple things again. I know that this means a lot to them.”
Kerska said this group of swimmers have been as tough and resilient as they are talented, especially when it came to all of the struggles and challenges of this season.
“We started the season unable to practice indoors and so we practiced in a lake early in the morning,” she said. “They stayed disciplined during our ‘break’ and trained by themselves as best they could. They came back with 11 days to finish the season and gave me everything they had.”
And the Pioneers didn’t fool around once they stepped off the bus at Hudsonville High School. They dominated from start to finish, including winning all three relays, as they coasted to a decisive victory at Saturday’s MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 Finals at Hudsonville. They had to wait a few months because of the COVID shutdown, but once they got in the water, their talent, drive and determination took over.
Pioneer racked up 368 points, while last year’s champion Farmington Hills Mercy placed second at 184. Northville (164) was third, Brighton (159) finished fourth and Grand Haven fifth (150).
“They were not fooling around,” Kerska said of her Pioneers. “They prepared since the day after last year’s state meet to show what they were capable of.”
SEC powerhouse Saline was ninth with 127 points and vastly improved Huron took 10th place with 108 points.
The Pioneers didn’t waste any time declaring their dominance as they won the first event of the day and the first of the three relays. The team of Quoia Sam, Edwina Jalet, Stella Chapman and Sophia Guo took first in the medley relay in 1 minute, 44.25 seconds with Rockland second in 1:46.17.
Pioneer’s Vivian VanRenterghem took top honors in the 200-yard freestyle in a time of 1:52.34 seconds. The junior, who was runner-up in the event last season, just out-touched Brighton’s Victoria Schreiber (1:52.57).
In the 200 IM, Pioneer freshman Stella Chapman was fourth in 2:05.59 followed by teammates Lily Cramer (fifth, 2:07.21) and Edwina Jalet (sixth, 2:08.56) for 42 points in one event.
Pioneer sophomore Sophia Guo was 11th in the 50 free in 24.61.
Pioneer junior Lindsay Orringer-Hau was third in the 100 fly with a time of 56.22 with junior Holly Pringle seventh in 58.30.
Pioneer junior Amelia Weyhing was fourth in the 100 free with a time of 51.69 with junior Autumn Bullinger touching seventh in 52.38. Guo was 18th in 53.89.
In the 500 free, Orringer-Hau was fourth with a time of 5:04.74. Freshman Yan Yee Adler was 17th in 5:21.94.
The Pioneer team of Cramer, Weyhing, Bullinger and Guo won the 200 free relay in 1:36.53.
Chapman, the young freshman, took first place in the 100 backstroke with a time of 55.36, beating out Rockland’s Sara Kraus (second, 56.17). Sam took third for the Pioneers with a time of 56.44. Junior Vivian VanRenterghem was 10th (58.42), Bullinger was 11th (58.51) and Pringle took 13th (58.58).
Jalet, a junior, took second in the breaststroke with a time of 1:03.18. Right behind her was Weyhing, who took third in 1:03.99. Cramer touched eighth in 1:05.53 and Adler was 19th in 1:09.53.
The Pioneers finished the meet the way they started it – in the winner’s circle as they came full circle. The team of Chapman, Weyhing, VanRenterghem and Cramer won the 400 free relay in 3:29.97 to put a bow on the meet for the Pioneers.