Fab Four: Pioneer Wins 4th Straight Division 1 Swimming & Diving State Title

By Terry Jacoby/weloveannarbor.com

The Pioneer girls’ swimming and diving team won its fourth MHSAA Division 1 State Championship on Saturday in the Jones Natatorium at beautiful Eastern Michigan University. And while the drive from Ann Arbor to Ypsilanti is a short one, the road to another state title is a long road but one the Pioneers have managed to maneuver in dominant fashion. 

And don’t think that the fourth win is any less significant or impressive than the previous three. They all matter and are all the result of intense hard work and dedication, and as Pioneer coach Stefanie Kerska says “it never gets old.”

“It was a total team effort from the young rookie swimmers to the veterans to the divers, and it’s a really rewarding win for us,” Kerska told MHSAA after the team’s victory.   

“To ask a group of girls never to take their eye off the prize, (and) never drop the ball is really impressive. It was a great team win. This is one of the first ones where, you know, we just came in (with) numbers and we were pretty relentless with the points that we were scoring. So just real rewarding for us.”

The Pioneers were certainly “pretty relentless with the points.” They racked up 301 points to finish a distant first, well ahead of runner-up Grand Haven (237.5 points). Jenison was third (228.5) and SEC rival Saline was fourth with 171 points. Canton was fifth (143.5), Rockford sixth (123) and Northville seventh (119).   

The four consecutive state titles are the most for a Lower Peninsula Division 1 team since the Pioneers won nine straight from 2000-2008. And was quite a finish for the seniors, who never lost a dual-meet or tournament in their four years. 

Pioneer opened the meet with a second-place finish in the medley relay. The team of Stella Chapman, Ursula Ott, Katelyn Van Ryn and Meg Pinkerton touched with a time of 1:43.52, just behind Jenison (1:42.37). 

In the 200 free, Pioneer freshman Harper Feyen was 15th in 1:58.11. 

Chapman and Yan Yee Adler, two seniors, finished one-two in a very fast 200-yard individual medley to give Pioneer 37 points. Chapman took first in 1:59.49 while Adler was runner-up in 2:06.92. But the Pioneers weren’t done racking up points in the IM. Juniors Bridgette Kamara (ninth, 2:09.52) and Reese Heidenreich (10th, 2:10.17) and freshman Jayla Kuzak (11th, 2:11.63) added 22 more points to the grand total. 

If you’re into math, that’s 59 points in one event. They would have finished in 15th place if you counted only the IM. 

Huron freshman Juna Sakamoto was 16th in the IM in 2:15.51.  

In the 50 free, Pioneer sophomore Katelyn Van Ryn was fifth in 23.90.

Pioneer junior Arianna Pagel was 10th in diving with 342 points.   

The Pioneers had a strong showing in the 100 freestyle. Ott, a junior, touched fourth in 51.59 with teammate Van Ryn, a sophomore, right behind her in fifth in 51.64. Pinkerton, a junior, was 13th in 53.65. 

They also racked up a pool full of points in the 500 free. Adler continued her strong meet with a second-place time of 4:59.2 and Kuzak  was eighth in 5:13.11. Feyen scored points in her second race of the day as the freshman finished 12th in 5:11.66.      

The Pioneer team of Heidenreich, Amani Sanogo, Kuzak and Pinkerton (all underclassmen) finished fifth in the 200 free relay in 1:38.33.  

Chapman broke her meet record in the 100 backstroke, improving from 53.69 seconds in 2022 to 53.54 on Saturday. She out-touched Jenison’s Grace Albrecht who took second in 54.73. Kamara was eighth (58.83) for Pioneer. 

Ott put a ribbon on her amazing day with a runner-up finish in the breaststroke. The junior was second in 1:03.57 – Jenison’s Sophia Umstead took first in 1:01.74. Heidenreich was ninth in 1:06.82. Freshman Suryn Lee was 18th (1:09.57) for Pioneer and Sakamoto was 17th for Huron (1:09.48). 

Pioneer finished the meet with a second-place finish in the 400 free relay. The team of Van Ryn, Kuzak, Chapman and Ott touched in 3:28.42. Grand Haven was first in 3:27.97 

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