Pioneer swimmer Matthew Segal has a lot going for him, but besides the incredible raw talent, is the dedication he has and the desire to get better and turn that talent into something very, very special. When an athlete has the physical tools PLUS a determined work ethic they usually go places, and Segal is well on his way to somewhere – and he’s got plenty of time to still get there.
“Segal is amazing and he’s hungry,” says Club Wolverine head coach Gunnar Schmidt, who can spot “amazing” when he sees one. “Matthew really enjoys competing and training. Our goals are focused on improving every season in a wide range of events. He has high aspirations and backs it up with work and dedication.”
And he’s just a sophomore.
“Matthew is incredibly coachable,” says Schmidt. “We still consider our sophomores as young, so we still spend a lot of time developing them as an overall athlete and swimmer.”
Another characteristic of the young swimmer is appreciative and humble and thankful. He not only understands the sacrifices people make to help him get better but also appreciates it.
And that starts at home.
“I am just so appreciative of my parents and brother, Jacob,” says Segal. “My mom has definitely seen the most races of anyone in my family and always has something positive to say even if I don’t agree. My dad and brother encourage me too and we love to joke around.”
He also can’t say enough good things about all of his coaches, including Schmidt.
“I want to acknowledge all of my CW and summer league coaches as they have all helped me develop into the swimmer I am today,” he says. “For CW, I especially want to thank Gunnar Schmidt for his positivity and attention to team community. He continues to be a positive force in my swimming and success in the pool.”
That success in the pool reached the state level last year where as a sophomore he placed in the top eight in his two individual events at the Division 1 state finals.
He placed third in the 200 freestyle with a time of 1:40.94 and touched fourth in the breaststroke with a time of 55.85. He also was a member of Pioneer’s 400 free relay team which placed fifth and the 200 free relay team which finished 11th.
Segal played a big part in Pioneer’s amazing 2018-19 season which included going undefeated in dual-meets and an SEC Red Division title over such teams as Skyline and Saline.
“I was really proud of the growth of the team,” he said. “We had guys swimming races that they may not have been excited about, but they did it for the team. There were guys who had never raced before and ended up going sub-one minute for their 100 free. Everyone was excited to race and contribute to the team.”
Segal says he achieved several of his goals this year but already has a few lined up to challenge next season. “I love swimming for Pioneer and the team is a family,” he says. “We have a lot of young talent and it was great to see them grow this season. I know we will be even stronger next year.”
Pioneer finished sixth at the state meet in March, just two points behind rival Skyline and also behind Saline – two teams they beat during the regular season. But swimming in a state finals is a lot different than a dual-meet.
“As with all meets, it comes down to the points and we did not have the prelims we had wanted,” Segal said. “However, we did the best we could in our final races.
“For many of the younger swimmers, they had not experienced high school states and that is a learning experience in itself. We will train harder for next year and be more prepared for a prelim final meet format. Pioneer is a great place and next year should be a lot of fun. Our coaches are fantastic.”
Segal, who quickly puts back on his appreciative hat for the Pioneer coaching staff, says he has learned a lot from head coach Stef Kerska.
“She has helped me focus on the fine points and those are collectively becoming time drops,” he said. “I so appreciate coach Jesse Rubin’s smile at the start of a hard practice and coach Pat Zakrajsek is a great number’s guy full of encouragement for every swimmer.
“The guys on the team are like family. The swimmers support each other and push one another to achieve their best. We just installed new blocks at the pool and it will be great to race with those next year. Our team is improving and next year should be another great season for Pioneer swimming.”
Segal won’t be waiting until next year to jump in the pool. He will be swimming for Club Wolverine for the long course season this spring and summer. He also will be racing for Huron Valley Swim Club – which he has done every summer since he was 6 years old.
“I want to work on my long course 100 breaststroke, I think I can drop more time,” he says. “I have a couple of big meets this summer and am excited to race long course.”
Matthew, 16, is the son of Jon and Kirsten Segal. He also does special things in the classroom where he clocks in with a 4.0 grade-point average.
His end goals for high school include continuing to drop times and maybe set a few pool records in the process. He’s also starting to think about the next level and what he wants out of a college.
“It is important that the college matches me for both academics and swimming,” he says. “I also want a great team environment like I have had at Pioneer and CW. I am sure that the right school will make itself known.”
Segal is certainly well on his way to somewhere – and he’s got plenty of time to still get there. And only he will determine where “there” is.