Pioneer Seniors Cap Careers By Leading Team to 3rd-Straight Finals Title

By Tim Robinson
Special for Second Half

November 19, 2022

ROCHESTER — Ann Arbor Pioneer girls swimming coach Stefanie Kerska got her way in Saturday’s Lower Peninsula Division 1 championship meet. 

The Pioneers won eight events in getting out to a big lead early, and on the way to winning their third-consecutive Finals championship.

Pioneer finished with 322 points, 104 more than second-place Northville. 

"I like that a lot,” she said with a grin. "People think close ones are great, but not for the coaches. We worked really hard to establish a lead, and these girls earned it.”

Saline’s Alice English dives on the way to winning that event after finishing second a year ago. It was the 19th overall title for Pioneer, one of Division 1’s premier programs, but it wasn’t a given going into the season, not after the Pioneers graduated an outstanding senior class after last season.

"I’m just so proud of this team in general,” Pioneer senior captain Sophia Guo said. "We had some big shoes to fill coming into this meet, and I think we really stepped up to the plate. I know me along with the other seniors were so happy this was the way we got to end our high school careers. I’m just so proud of us. 

“We had to swim with our hearts today,” Guo continued. "We swam for each other, and I really think that made the difference.”

Among the difference-makers was Stella Chapman, who set a meet record in the backstroke and won the individual medley; Lucy Mehraban, who was on two winning relays, won the 50 freestyle and finished second to Guo in the 100 freestyle, and Kate Van Ryn, a freshman who was on three winning relays. 

“To put a ninth-grader in with that kind of pressure was ... I would like to say a gamble. But it wasn’t,” Kerska said. "I knew her preparation was thorough, she was up to the challenge and she really came through for her team.”

Another freshman who made a big splash was West Bloomfield’s Elizabeth Eichbrecht, who won both the 200 and 500 freestyles. 

Northville finished second for the second consecutive year. Among the team leaders was Emily Roden, who ended her career the same way she started it, winning the 100 butterfly. 

"I really dialed in on my training, and I knew what I had to do,” Roden said. "I focused a lot more, focused out of the water, and enjoyed it more. We have a great team and I had a lot of fun, and it helped me this year.”

Livonia Stevenson’s McKenzie Siroky swims to a repeat in the breaststroke.Saline senior Alice English won the diving competition after finishing second last year.

"My goal was constant improvement since my freshman year, so to get first was really nice,” she said, noting a slow start in Friday’s preliminaries. "Yesterday wasn’t my day, but I pulled it out today and I’m really happy with it.”

After accepting the championship trophy, the Pioneers joined hands and leaped into the diving pool together, followed closely by their coaches. 

For Kerska, winning a third title in a row was anything but old hat.

"The pressure mounts a little bit each year to try and outdo the year before, but no, it never gets old,” she said. "These girls, from day 1, stepped up, took the reins and really took responsibility of the tradition that we have going here and never looked back.”

And, as a result, Guo and her fellow seniors finished their careers with three team state titles. 

“It’s a great feeling,” she said. ‘We all worked so hard, and it really showed today."

Click for full results

PHOTOS (Top) Ann Arbor Pioneer’s Sophia Guo, right, embraces teammate Lucy Mehraban after their 100-yard freestyle race Saturday. (Middle) Saline’s Alice English dives on the way to winning that event after finishing second a year ago. (Below) Livonia Stevenson’s McKenzie Siroky swims to a repeat in the breaststroke. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.) 

MHSAA Winter Sports Start with Extended Basketball Schedules, New Wrestling Weights

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

December 13, 2022

The addition of two games to basketball regular-season schedules and a new series of wrestling weight classes are likely the most noticeable Winter 2022-23 changes as an estimated 65,000 athletes statewide take part in 13 sports for which the Michigan High School Athletic Association sponsors postseason tournaments.

Girls gymnastics and boys ice hockey teams were able to begin practice Oct. 31, with the rest of those sports beginning in November – including also girls and boys basketball, girls and boys bowling, girls competitive cheer, girls and boys skiing, Upper Peninsula girls and boys and Lower Peninsula boys swimming & diving, and girls and boys wrestling.

A variety of changes are in effect for winter sports this season, including a several that will be noteworthy and noticeable to teams and spectators alike.

Basketball remains the most-participated winter sport for MHSAA member schools with 33,000 athletes taking part last season, and for the first time, basketball teams may play up to 22 regular-season games. This increase from the previous 20-game schedule allows more games for teams at every high school level – varsity, junior varsity and freshman.

Another significant change has been made in wrestling, as the majority of boys wrestling weight classes have been adjusted for this season in anticipation of a national change coming in 2023-24. The updated boys weight classes are 106, 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 144, 150, 157, 165, 175, 190, 215 and 285 pounds. Only 215 and 285 remain from the previous lineup. There is also one change to girls weight classes, with the 255 class replaced by 235 to also align with national high school standards.

A series of notable changes will affect how competition takes place at the MHSAA Tournament levels. In hockey, in addition to a new classification process that spread cooperative and single-school programs evenly throughout the three playoff divisions, the MHSAA Tournament will employ two changes. The Michigan Power Ratings (MPR) will be used to seed the entire Regional round, not just the top two teams, and prior to the start of Semifinals, a seeding committee will reseed the remaining four teams in each division with the top seed in each then facing the No. 4 seed, and the No. 2 seed facing No. 3.

Bowling also will see an MHSAA Tournament change, as the Team Regional format will mirror the long-standing Team Final with teams playing eight Baker games and two regular games at both levels.  And as also applied during the fall girls season, there is a new qualification process for divers seeking to advance to Lower Peninsula Boys Swimming & Diving Finals. In each of the three divisions, each Regional will be guaranteed 10 qualifiers for the Finals, with six more “floating” qualifier entries to be distributed to the Regionals that have one of the previous year’s top six returning Finals divers in their fields. If a team changes division from the previous season, any floating top-six spots are added to the six already allowed in the school’s new division.

A gymnastics rules change provides an opportunity for additional scoring during the floor exercise. A dance passage requirement was added in place of the former dance series requirement to encourage creativity and a more artistic use of dance. The dance passage requires gymnasts to include two Group 1 elements – one a leap with legs in cross or side split position, the other a superior element.

In competitive cheer, the penalty for going over the time limit in each round was adjusted to one penalty point for every second over the time limit, not to exceed 15 points. The new time limit rule is more lenient than the past penalty, which subtracted points based on ranges of time over the limit.

The 2022-23 Winter campaign culminates with postseason tournaments, as the championship schedule begins with the Upper Peninsula Girls & Boys Swimming & Diving Finals on Feb. 18 and wraps up with the Boys Basketball Finals on March 25. Here is a complete list of winter tournament dates:

Boys Basketball
Districts – March 6, 8, 10
Regionals – March 13, 15
Quarterfinals – March 21
Semifinals – March 23-24
Finals – March 25

Girls Basketball
Districts – Feb. 27, March 1, 3
Regionals – March 7, 9
Quarterfinals – March 14
Semifinals – March 16-17
Finals – March 18

Regionals – Feb. 24-25
Finals – March 3-4

Competitive Cheer
District – Feb. 17-18
Regionals – Feb. 25
Finals – March 2-3

Regionals – March 4
Finals – March 10-11

Ice Hockey
Regionals – Feb. 20-March 1
Quarterfinals – March 4
Semifinals – March 9-10
Finals – March 11

Regionals – Feb. 13-17
Finals – Feb. 27

Swimming & Diving
Upper Peninsula Girls/Boys Finals – Feb. 18
Lower Peninsula Boys Diving Regionals – March 2
Lower Peninsula Boys Finals – March 10-11

Wrestling – Team
Districts – Feb. 8-9
Regionals – Feb. 15
Finals – Feb. 24-25

Wrestling – Individual
Districts – Feb. 11
Regionals – Feb. 18
Finals – March 3-4

The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,500 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.3 million spectators each year.