Swimming Backstroke: A look back at just how dominate Pioneer was at the D-1 State Finals

There is no debate that the best swimming and diving program in the state of Michigan is Ann Arbor Pioneer High School – boys or girls. After the girls’ won the Division 1 State Finals in dominating fashion back in January, the boys took center stage this weekend and were equally as impressive and dominant.

The Pioneers won four individual races at Hudsonville in the D-1 State Finals on Saturday and racked up an amazing 369 points to win the program’s 16th state championship. Holland West Ottawa was a very distant second with 233.5 points.

“I am super pleased, I think we just wanted to be consistent from the start to the finish of the season,” Pioneer Coach Stefanie Kerska said. “I thought they did such a great job doing that. Whether it was their preparation, execution, or just the way they’ve handled themselves, they’ve really been a dream.”

Kerska also coaches the girls’ program at Pioneer so it was her second championship in less than three months. And the dominance by the two teams is worth noting. The girls’ team finished with 368 points, 184 points better than runner-up Farmington Hills Mercy. The boys’ team finished with one more point, 369, and won by 135.5 points.

It all adds up to the pinnacle of high school swimming.

SEC rival Saline took third place with 230 points, Detroit Catholic Central was fourth (225), Northville fifth (209), Macomb Dakota sixth (112), Rochester seventh (98), Brighton eighth (97.5), Troy ninth (91) and Grand Haven 10th (76).

Let’s dive in and take a closer look at exactly how Pioneer dominated the 2021 MHSAA State Finals. I know, why not – they certainly deserve a second look.

The seniors.

200 medley relay

And they’re off. Even finishing in second place, Pioneer dropped over 2 seconds which means they broke their own varsity record by 2.06 seconds. The team of Jack Wilkening, Matthew Segal, Robert Yang and new anchor junior Alex Farmer took second in 1 minute, 31.74 seconds.

200 free

Segal wasn’t going to finish anywhere but first in his final Pioneer meet. Between his sprinter’s explosive start and his perfectly executed turns, Segal came off the final turn ahead and held off Connor Halberg to the finish. But talk about dominating. Pioneer finished with first, fourth (Teodor Jaworski), fifth (Cameron Williston), 11th (Harrison Sanders) and 12th (Alec Lipham) for a total of 60 points in the event. Incidentally, 60 points from just this one event would have placed Pioneer 11th overall at the state meet.

200 IM

Junior Ryan Hume, who has had as good a year as any swimmer in the state, won the 200 IM with a time of 1:50.37. His father, Jim Hume, was second in this event as a junior. Ryan’s splits: 23.79/27.25/32.85/26.48. After graduating from Pioneer in 1989, Jim Hume swam for Michigan.


Pioneer’s Harry Sanders (left) and Alec Lipham.

500 free

Hume finished second in 4:31.93 to break the Pioneer varsity record. Williston held third and Jaworski was fifth and Lipham 10th for the Pioneers. Freshman Jensen Wood finished just outside the top 16 points range, finishing 17. Total points in this event was 54 points (the second most for Pioneer in a single event).

200 free relay 

Pioneer’s team had two swimmers who had just finished racing the 500 free: Hume and Williston. The relay was seeded second with the time they did with Segal, Hume, Wilkening, and Farmer. Segal was swimming the other two relays and two individual events so they added Williston to the team in his place. Williston dove in fourth position and pulled ahead and finished third with a time of 1:25.32, out touching Northville by 0.04 seconds.

100 back

Just like at the first dual meet of the season, Wilkening and Saline’s Adanin went head to head. Rochester’s Jack VanHowe won the event. Adanin finished second and Wilkening was third in 51.31.

100 breaststroke

Segal (right) won by over a body length, dropping three quarters of a second, lowering his own varsity record and breaking the state record! He posted an All-Division/Class Finals record time of 53.26.

400 free

Pioneer’s team of Yang, Hume, Williston and Segal finished second to Saline, lowering their own varsity record, with a time of 3:04.65.

Worth noting

Segal had two sets of back-to-back swims at States: 200 medley relay to 200 free and 100 breaststroke to 400 free relay.

Robert Yang also had a tough back-to-back, swimming the 100 fly and then 100 free. He was 8th and then 9th in the two sprints.

Two seniors who missed qualifying for the state meet until the SECs, scored points at States, Gabe Labadie finished 15th in the 100 free (and got accepted to Michigan on the way home!) and Sammy Fonte finished 7th in the 200 IM and 13th in the 100 breaststroke.

All-American: The 400 free relay of Yang, Hume, Williston, and Segal had already qualified for All-American from their relay at SECs but their state time was faster, moving them up to 24th in the country.

There’s automatic All-American standards and then slightly slower cuts for All-American consideration. All-American is the top 100 athletes in each event. 

Other All-American swims:

200 medley relay: Wilkening, Segal, Yang, Farmer

200 free: Segal

200 IM: consideration Hume

500 free: consideration Hume

200 free relay: consideration Wilkening, Farmer, Hume, Williston

100 breaststroke: Segal

400 free relay: Yang, Hume, Williston, Segal