By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Few if any Michigan high school sports have seen the bar continue to rise and records continue to fall like swimming & diving since the turn of this century.
But as winning times continue to rev faster and faster, the 2002 Ann Arbor Pioneer girls team continues to hold a lofty spot as arguably the most dominating in MHSAA history.
The 2002 Finals were the first in the Lower Peninsula organized by two divisions instead of the traditional class format, and Pioneer entered having won the last two LP Class A titles.
The Pioneers claimed that first Division 1 title with an astounding 476 points, and by 275 on the rest of the field. No LP Division 1 team has broken 400 points at a Final since, and Pioneer’s 184.5-point win in 2008 has come closest to that 2002 margin of victory.
Pioneer placed the champions in all three relays, three individual races and diving that Nov. 23 at Eastern Michigan University. The team was led by future three-time Olympian Kara Lynn Joyce, and her swims that day in the 100-yard freestyle (48.59 seconds), as part of the 200 freestyle relay (Joyce, Margaret Kelly, Leigh Cole, Suzannah Merte – 1:33.71) and in the 50 (22.04) as the lead leg in that relay still stand as the oldest all-Finals records in MHSAA history. At the time, the 100 freestyle and 200 relay times also broke national girls high school records, as did Joyce’s winning and then-MHSAA record time of 1:46.34 in the 200 freestyle.
The 2002 championship run was the 10th of 16 guided by legendary coaches Denny and Liz Hill (Liz was his assistant until becoming the co-head coach in 2007 and has been part of the staff for all 16 titles). It also was not only the team’s third straight, but ended up being part of a string of nine consecutive MHSAA Finals wins.
In addition to Joyce and the 200 freestyle relay’s wins, Pioneer won the 200 medley relay (Kelly, Ilene Lesch, Melissa Jaeger, Ally Wyatt) in 1:46.14, Jaeger won the butterfly in 56.33, the 400 freestyle relay (Cole, Jaeger, Merte, Joyce) won in 3:26.96 and Ellen Van Cleve won diving with a score of 446.10.
Joyce went on to swim at University of Georgia and then during the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympics. She won four silver medals, two each as part of 400-meter freestyle and 400-meter medley relays. Jaeger, Cole and Kelly swam at University of Michigan, Lesch at Arizona State University, and Van Cleve also dove for the Wolverines.
PHOTO: Ann Arbor Pioneer celebrates the Lower Peninsula Division 1 championship; future Olympian Kara Lynn Joyce stands middle, just below the trophy.
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:
Districts – March 6, 8, 10
Regionals – March 13, 15
Quarterfinals – March 21
Semifinals – March 23-24
Finals – March 25
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
District – Feb. 17-18
Regionals – Feb. 25
Finals – March 2-3
Regionals – March 4
Finals – March 10-11
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.