Last relay decides swim title
Holland dethrones Pioneer
Sunday, March 14, 2004
BY ROB HOFFMAN
News Sports Reporter
High school swim meets don't get much closer than the Division 1 state championship at the University of Michigan's Canham Auditorium on Saturday.
And for Pioneer, denied its quest for a third straight title, they don't get much more heartbreaking.
The meet came down to the 400 freestyle relay, the day's final event. A victory by Pioneer, the top-seed after Friday's preliminaries, and a second-place finish by Holland would have caused the two schools to share the title.
Instead, the Dutch came up with a relay performance for the ages to win the meet outright, 264-252. Holland's touched the wall in 3:09.40 - more than a second faster than runner-up Pioneer and nearly three seconds faster than anyone had swum the event all year. Three of the Dutch's four swimmers completed their legs in under 48 seconds. Entering this weekend, only three other 100 freestyle competitors in the state had managed to clock times under that milestone.
"They just put it into high gear," said senior Wade Engers, a Pioneer co-captain.
The 200 freestyle relay was even closer with Birmingham Brother Rice outpointing both second-place Holland and third-place Pioneer by .06 and .07 seconds respectively.
Pioneer, which won all three relays in 2002 and two of three in 2003, didn't win any Saturday - probably the deciding factor in its runner-up finish.
"We did as best we could on a given day," said Pioneer co-captain Craig Pfister. "And they (Holland) had a better day than us. They earned it."
Not that Pioneer came away from the meet completely empty-handed. Sophomore Sho Koba, a recent transfer from Japan, captured the school's sole individual title by easily winning the 200 freestyle by nearly two seconds. Koba also was a runner-up in the 100 free.
Aside from Koba, sophomore Robert Steele (5th, 200 free) was the only Pioneer to finish in the top five of an individual event. But several swimmers finished with faster times than Friday's preliminaries and managed to move up a few unexpected places. That enabled Pioneer to challenge Holland, the top-ranked team in the Michigan Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association rankings and the only school to defeat Pioneer in a dual meet this season.
"We would have liked to won," said Denny Hill, who has coached Pioneer to a first-place or second-place finish every year since 1992. "But we came a long way out here."
Among other local competitors who wound up in the top five, Saline's Dan Warner finished second in the 200 IM, Salem's Nick Dixon was fourth in the same event, Huron's Steve Weinberg was fourth in the 100 breast, South Lyon's Ryan Fulkerson was fifth in the same event and Canton's Joe Le was fifth in the 100 free.
Rob Hoffman can be reached at (734) 994-6814 or firstname.lastname@example.org