2005. 3.12 Ann Arbor News
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Pioneer poised to claim crown
DIVISION 1 SWIMMING
Saturday, March 12, 2005
BY ROB HOFFMAN
News Sports Reporter
If there were any doubts that Pioneer High School would capture its third Division 1 state swimming championship four years, they vanished during three hours of magnificent swimming Friday at Eastern Michigan University's Jones Natatorium.
Not even Pioneer coach Denny Hill could quite believe the performance of his team in the preliminaries. The Pioneers qualified for 12 spots in today's finals, made all three relay finals (including two as top seed) and collected four entries in the consolation finals.
"They were just amazing," he said of his swimmers. "I'm trying to pinch myself. I don't want to wake up."
Just how amazing? Cumulatively, Pioneer swimmers who qualified for the finals dropped 52.93 seconds off of their previous season-best times. Junior Sho Koba broke his own Division 1 record in the 200 freestyle by nearly a second with a time of 1:39.15 and also earned the top seed in the 100 freestyle. Shaving nearly 10 seconds off his season-best time, David Curtis won the top seed in the 500 freestyle in 4:39.24. And besides Koba, three other Pioneer swimmers landed in the top 16 in the 200 freestyle.
While Hill was more than satisfied with how his team swam, he doesn't want his finalists to ease up today.
"We'll want to swim well tomorrow, just to make it fun," he said with a grin.
Swimmers in purple and white weren't the only locals to do well Friday. Saline's Dan Warner, a runner-up for the past two years in the 200 medley, earned the top seed by finishing the event in 1:53.40. If he wins today, the Hornets senior will become the first Saline swimmer to win an individual state championship.
"I felt really strong," Warner said. "But there are definitely areas I can improve upon, so that gives me something I can work on (in the finals)."
In the 100 backstroke, Huron's Steve Weinberg finished .03 second behind top seed Jordan Diekema and .02 second behind a school record he's been chasing for four years. Weinberg will be joined in the final by No. 3 seed Nick Dixon of Salem, Warner (No. 4) and brothers Pat (No. 6) and Chris Buck (No. 7) of Pioneer.
"Being able to do that well is a great feeling," said Weinberg, who is looking to become the River Rats' first individual titlist since 1990. "That's all I can hope for."
Another impressive performance was turned in by South Lyon's Ryan Fulkerson. Ranked 11th in the state entering the 100 butterfly preliminaries, Fulkerson is the No. 4 seed in today's final.
Rob Hoffman can be reached at email@example.com or (734) 994-6814.