YPSILANTI – Everyone dreams of going out on top.
Very few did so like Ann Arbor Pioneer captains Stella Chapman and Yan Yee Adler.
They finished their high school swimming careers unbeaten Saturday, as in never having been on a losing team at a high school swim meet, be it duals, conference or MHSAA Finals – a most memorable four-for-four for those seniors.
Ann Arbor Pioneer won its fourth Lower Peninsula Division 1 championship meet in a row, the most consecutive for the Pioneers since they won nine straight from 2000-2008.
“It never gets old,” Pioneer coach Stefanie Kerska said following a celebratory dive into the Jones Natatorium pool. “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.”
Chapman and Adler finished 1-2 in the 200-yard individual medley. Chapman broke her meet record in the 100 backstroke, improving from 53.69 seconds in 2022 to 53.54 on Saturday.
“Getting first is big,” Chapman said. “To have my best time in the IM and then (improve) on my best time, and backstroke is something I'm really, really happy with.”
Adler emphasized Pioneer’s title was a team effort.
“I think it's just our culture. We really swim for each other,” she said. “And everyone on this team knows that it's a team effort, not an individual effort and none of us would be able to do what we do if it wasn't for the people around us.”
Kerska said her swimmers deserve the credit.
“To ask a group of girls never to take their eye off the prize, (and) never drop the ball is really impressive,” she said. “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.”
Pioneer finished comfortably in first with 301 points.
Grand Haven, which went unbeaten in its dual meet season and tied for the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red championship with Jenison, took second, edging the Wildcats by winning the final race of the day, the 400 freestyle relay.
“We needed to take at least second place in that 400 free relay for us to be second overall,” Grand Haven coach Doug Thorne said. “And the girls rose to it and won the 400, so it sealed the deal. To come here at the state meet and take second place is just beyond our wildest dreams. We're really thrilled.”
The Buccaneers were led by Rosalie Springer, who won the 100 freestyle for the second time in three years and swam the anchor leg on the 400 free relay.
Sophia Umstead won the butterfly and breaststroke for Jenison, while Grace Albrecht won the 50 freestyle and was part of the 200 freestyle relay team that set a meet record in 1:32.85.
But the day, as it has the last four years, belonged to Pioneer.
“It’s definitely bittersweet,” Adler said of the end of her high school career. ”I love this team and I love what we've been able to do. But I know everyone's gonna be all good. I'm very confident in the team in the future and years to come. So they're in great hands.”
(PHOTOS by High School Sports Scene.)
WEST BLOOMFIELD — When she started high school swimming last fall, West Bloomfield sophomore Elizabeth Eichbrecht didn’t know what expectations to have, given she knew full well the high level of competition there was throughout the state.
Well, after two seasons, it’s safe to say Eichbrecht has blown any expectations she had out of the water, pun intended.
At the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 1 Finals on Nov. 17-18 at Eastern Michigan University, Eichbrecht won her third and fourth individual championships.
She won the 200-yard freestyle in a time of 1:48.08, more than three seconds ahead of the next finisher. The winning time qualified for All-America recognition and bested her first-place time from the 2022 Finals by 0.34 seconds.
Later on, Eichbrecht won the 500 freestyle in a time of 4:47.66, more than 11 seconds ahead of the rest of the field. Her All-American time in that event was more than five seconds better than her winning time in 2022.
Two years, four Finals titles. Not too shabby.
“Yes it’s surprising, because there are so many fast girls and we are all very competitive,” Eichbrecht said.
Eichbrecht already holds six school records – in all four freestyle events, the 200 individual medley and 100 butterfly.
She also owns Oakland Activities Association records in the 200 and 500 freestyles and the 100 butterfly.
“I like the distance events more, mainly because I don’t have to all-out sprint,” Eichbrecht said.
West Bloomfield head coach Ronson Webster said the big reason why Eichbrecht was even better this year as a sophomore after making such an impact as a freshman wasn’t necessarily because she was bigger and stronger, although those were contributing factors.
Mainly, her success this year was the validation that she belonged after such a great freshman season.
“She gained more confidence this year going into her races,” he said. “She focused on racing her race and not who was next to her. Meeting the time we worked for was the goal. Winning is a bonus.”
While Eichbrecht excels at so many events, her specialty has been the 200 and 500 freestyles, which is stating the obvious given the Finals titles she has won in those events.
“Her training is very specific as it is for every swimmer on our team,” Webster said. “Everyone is trained differently. Her technique is very important and specific to her event and body size. Since she is shorter, she can’t swim the same as a tall person. Having the right technique designed for the swimmer and the correct race plan goes a long way.”
Eichbrecht next will focus on her club season for Supernova Swim Team based out of Farmington Hills, and she already is looking forward to competing at the Winter Junior Nationals in Columbus from Dec. 6-9.
By the time her career is over, it’s safe to say Eichbrecht might be the best all-time from a West Bloomfield school that’s not known as much for swimming as other Oakland County powers such as Farmington Hills Mercy or the Birmingham schools. But Eichbrecht is relishing putting her school on the swimming map with all her success so far.
“I love swimming at WB,” she said. “My teammates are amazing, and they work super hard. I’m super proud of all the work they put in this season, and I can’t wait for next season.”
Keith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties
PHOTOS (Top) West Bloomfield’s Elizabeth Eichbrecht swims the winning 200-yard freestyle Nov. 18 at Eastern Michigan University. (Middle) Eichbrecht talks with runner-up Yan Yee Adler from Ann Arbor Pioneer after also winning the 500 freestyle. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)