|Pioneer needs to find the fast lane All must go well for swim team to capture its third Division 1 state title in a row
Friday, March 12, 2004
BY ROB HOFFMAN
News Sports Reporter
Four times out of the last five years, at least one area school has pulled itself from the pool for a final time with a state swimming championship.
For that trend to continue, something special will have to happen Friday and Saturday at the University of Michigan's Canham Natatorium and Eastern Michigan University's Jones Natatorium.
At the Division 1 competition at Michigan, Pioneer's quest for a third straight state title could face a stiff challenge from last year's runner-up Holland, which beat Pioneer 101-85 in a January dual meet. Other top-notch contenders include Zeeland, which beat Holland at its recent Ottawa-Kent league meet, and Birmingham Brother Rice, which narrowly lost to Pioneer earlier this year.
"We have to swim a lot faster than we have," said Pioneer coach Denny Hill. "But all's not lost. They do give us a lane to swim in."
In Division 2 at Eastern Michigan, Dexter and Milan are definite underdogs who will count themselves exceptionally lucky if they can vault past defending champion Alma, top-ranked Birmingham Groves and No. 3 Bloomfield Hills Lahser.
"It's so fast this year," said Mike VanRhee, coach of Dexter, which is No. 6 in the latest coaches' rankings. "Third through sixth would be a great performance for our guys."
First, the bad news for Pioneer. Only one individual swimmer, sophomore Sho Koba (No. 1 200 freestyle, No. 2 100 freestyle), is seeded in the top eight for his event. Nine others are ranked within the top 16 in their events, another unusually low number for Hill. And the highest relay seeding for Pioneer is No. 5 in the 200 freestyle.
Now, the good news: Pioneer's swimmers have historically turned in their fastest times at the state meet, dropping full seconds off their best times. And they have swam almost flawlessly at the big meets, while other teams have hit bumps in the road.
For his team to have a chance, Hill said his team has to swim well today to maximize Pioneer's presence in the finals Saturday. And at least two of Pioneer's three relay teams need to swim faster than Holland.
At the Division 2 meet, Dexter's Bryan Vessels and Milan diver Kyle Schroeder would appear to be in the strongest position to come away with individual titles.
Vessels, the defending champion in the 100 backstroke, is seeded first in the event. He is also ranked second in the 50 freestyle, which VanRhee fully expects to be the best race of the meet. Two-time defending state champion Dan Priestley of Birmingham Seaholm, Vessels, Mike Desautels of Bloomfield Hills Andover and Phil Cole of Lakeview have all swam under 22 seconds.
Schroeder, who finished fourth at last year's state meet, has emerged as the diver to beat. The junior has won every competition so far this season, including last month's mammoth Michigan Interscholastic Swimming Coaches' Association at the same EMU pool.
Here are some other competitors to look for this weekend:
" Brighton: Jared Jonas (50 free) could sneak in some points for the Bulldogs, as could diver Kelly Todd. The 200 medley relay team should also reach the finals.
" Canton: Joe Le (100 free) should score for the Chiefs.
" Huron: Steve Weinberg (No. 5, 100 back) has turned in among the top times in the state.
" Pinckney: Aaron Renton (50 free) has an outside shot to make the finals.
" Salem: Nick Dixon (No. 7, 100 back) and 200 medley relay team represent the best chances for the Rocks.
" Saline: Dan Warner (No. 2, 200 medley, No. 6, 100 breast) is a genuine double threat for the Hornets.
" South Lyon: Ryan Fulkerson (100 back, 100 butterfly) and Kevin Grinnell (100 butterfly) could be key for the Lions, who also could score in the 200 free relay.
" Chelsea: Andy Kellogg (No. 7, 100 freestyle) is a likely finalist. The Bulldogs could also score with their 200 free relay.
" Dexter. Besides Vessels, B.J. Jacobs (No. 16, 500 free), Kirk Kumbier (No. 13, 100 breast), divers Mike Eberbach and Jeff Pompliano all could score points. Dexter's 200 medley is among the best in the state and its two other teams have turned in top 16 times.
" Milan. Besides Schroeder, the Big Reds have a potential finalist in Eric Susterka (100 butterfly). Wade Freeman (50 free) and diver Evan Betts have a shot at scoring.
" Plymouth: The fledgling Wildcats' hopes rest on Andy Knisely (100 breast).
" Tecumseh: John Meulendyk has an outside shot of scoring in the 50 free. And the Indians have a solid 200 freestyle relay team.
" Willow Run: Shane Edwards (No. 8, 100 freestyle) is the Flyers' best shot at scoring some points.
" Ypsilanti: Tim Linderbach (100 back, 100 butterfly) is the Braves' best swimmer.
Rob Hoffman can be reached
at (734) 994-6814 or firstname.lastname@example.org