Matthew Segal remembers the first day he walked on the deck at Pioneer High School as a member of the Pioneer boys’ swimming and diving team. They were small steps trying to fill big shoes – Pioneer swimming after all is an elite program with a long history of success.
“It was pretty incredible just to see the whole team together,” says Segal, one of several standout freshman swimmers on the Pioneer roster this season. “It was quite a big thrill. It was a very special moment.”
Segal had attended some Pioneer meets in the past as a young spectator and was well aware of the expectations that come with being on the varsity swimming program. “But being on the deck with them and being part of the team is totally a different feeling,” he said.
Read Terry Jacoby’s column on Pioneer swimming program: https://weloveannarbor.com/2018/02/21/opinion-pioneer-swimmers-passing-the-keys-to-success-down-the-line/
A typical day for Segal and the Pioneers starts early – before the sun even starts its day. The team has doubles three times a week and the alarm clock greets the young swimmer at 4:40 a.m.
“We have to be in the water at 5:30 a.m.,” he says. “It’s not always easy but it’s not really that bad. I want to go to practice so that makes getting up easier. Some days I do get tired during the day but it does get me up and going.”
The Pioneers also practice for two hours every afternoon. “It’s a lot of work but it’s not so bad when you see the payoff,” he says.
Segal started swimming by the time he could walk, taking to the water like a fish IN water. He gave soccer a kick and hockey a skate but those didn’t “stick” – he even refers to ice as the wrong kind of water.
He started racing with HVSC (Huron Valley Swim Club) in the summer when he was only 6 years old. He now swims for the prestigious Club Wolverine in the non-high school season and has loved being a part of his swim teams. He also has had great success as he moves up in the different age divisions.
Segal has always loved freestyle, especially the 50 and 100, but over the past few years his breaststroke has become a favorite. As a member of Club Wolverine, he has been state champion several times in the freestyle and breaststroke events and has been in the top eight at central zones for almost all of his races.
Segal, who was zone champ for the 100 meter free when he was 10, also enjoys swimming the 200 IM.
Segal did have some doubts that high school swimming could have the same “team” feeling he gets from club swimming. It didn’t take him long to discover that he had nothing to worry about. Now that he has become a part of the Pioneer squad, he has found that everything that people say about high school swimming is true.
“I’m very happy with how the season is going,” he said. “Being a freshman on the varsity team is humbling. It’s great that I can help out the team wherever Coach Stef places me. It’s always great when you’re swimming fast and also having fun.”
They call that a win-win.
Segal had a strong showing at the Michigan Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association (MISCA) meet at Eastern Michigan University on Feb. 8-9. The ninth-grader left Ypsilanti with two top-10 finishes in his individual races against an elite field.
In the 200 IM, Segal was fifth in 1:58.39. He was seventh for Pioneer in the breaststroke with a time of 59.38. Segal also was a member of the 200 freestyle relay which finished first in 1:27.25.
Not only is this year’s team outstanding, the future looks bright for the Pioneers.
Segal is part of a freshman swim class that is both numerous and talented. They have 15 freshman (13 swimmers and two divers) that make up one of the largest teams in years at Pioneer with a total of 44 swimmers and divers. The whole team has formed a really tight bond and teammates spend time together in and out of the water.
“I am really excited for the future of the team,” Segal says. “It’s going to be a fun four years. We have really learned a lot this year. All of the upper-classman have been helpful and very supportive. They are great role models. It’s a lot of fun being around them.”
The Pioneers will join the likes of Skyline and Saline at the SEC meet this weekend at Skyline. The Division 1 Swimming and Diving State Finals are March 9-10 at Eastern Michigan University.
“We want to place as high as we can at both SECs and states,” says Segal. “I want to see the whole team finish the season on a high note. That would be awesome.”
Swimming in college also would be “awesome” even though that challenge is still a few laps away. That goal is on the horizon; this weekend and the state finals are straight ahead where the goal is to swim fast and have fun.