Pioneer Swimming Wins Cereal Bowl Relay to Kick Off What is Anticipated to be Another Successful Season


Pioneer Swimmers Max Cornblath, Jiaming Shen, Kai Williams and Thad Stalmack celebrate a first place finish in the 200 Medley. In addition to winning the event they shattered a record from the 1980’s.

Seven minivans sit idling and the beat or rap music can be felt from outside the vehicles. Inside the vans sit members of the Pioneer Men’s Swim team, awake at a time that many would consider the middle of the night. They sit in the warmth of their cars waiting for their legendary coach, Denny Hill, to arrive and unlock the doors for morning practice. It’s 5:45 on a Monday.

The Men’s Swim and Dive team at Ann Arbor Pioneer has a long tradition of hard work and success that can be verified by both their intense practice schedule and the countless banners hanging from the walls of Hill Pool, named after the husband and wife coaching duo who have made the school legend in the swimming world.

On Saturday, December 7 Pioneer captured their first victory of the season, beating out their competition by over sixty points. “Cereal Bowls is the oldest relay meet of its kind in the country,” said Head Coach Denny Hill. The meet is held at Battle Creek Central High School and has been a much anticipated kickoff to the Men’s High School swim season since the late nineteen-forties.

What makes Cereal Bowl Relays special is, “They have all the standard relays you would see at a meet but also novelty ones which allows you to swim events you normally wouldn’t get to swim,” explained Dan Metzler, a sophomore swimmer. Typically high school swim meets only have three relays, the 200 Medley and the 200 and 400 Freestyle relays, however at Cereal Bowls seven additional relays are added into the mix. “The relays have been the same since the meet started up, but last year they added two relays, the Up Down and the 400 Medley,” said Hill, who appreciated these additions because it allowed more swimmers to attend the meet and share in the excitement.

The apex of the meet for the Pioneers was breaking a longstanding record in the 200 Medley. Max Cornblath, Jiaming Shen, Kai Williams and Thad Stalmack had the pleasure of beating a record from the 80’s that had been held by Pioneer alums including swim team father, Buzz Argersinger, and Pioneer social studies teacher, Don Packard. “I don’t want to say bad mouthing but he [Packard] was trashing some of the guys about not being able to break his record,” said Hill with a wide grin. The falling of the record in the 200 Medley was accompanied by another record breaking performance in the 200 Breaststroke and five other first place finishes.

Cereal Bowls is still the highlight of many swimmers season but Hill says it has become less of a production over the years. “It was originally sponsored by Kelloggs Cereal and each swimmer was given a variety pack of cereal. They also had a parade of champions where all the teams paraded in,” explained Hill. Hill believes the increase in the size and number of teams participating in the meet have contributed to the decrease in the fanfare taking place at the meet.

The awards are not considered the highlight of the meet to most Pioneer swimmers, it’s what takes place after the meet that really counts. On the way back to Ann Arbor the Pioneers stop at The Parlor, an ice cream and burger joint that is Jackson, Michigans claim to fame. Their the boys and coaches delight in eating a variety of frozen concoctions ranging from banana splits to malts.

Outings, like stopping at The Parlor are what helps to make the Coaches Hill’s team such a success. When asked what makes Pioneer swimming special, most athletes feel that the community they are a part of is what sets the team apart. “My favorite part of being on the team? Having a great group [of people] surrounding me,” responded senior Matt Erickson. The camaraderie established on the team is what allows Hill to push his boys through their grueling Winter Break workouts, which are fondly nicknamed “Hell Week”. “It [hard work] pays off,” said Metzler who considers Hell Week one of his favorite parts of his season.

Hill is optimistic about the season. Pioneer has a great crop of freshmen who have previously been swimming with local powerhouse USA swim team, Club Wolverine. The Pioneers are currently ranked second in the state behind Birmingham Brother Rice. Pioneer will take on Chelsea in their first dual meet at Hill Pool on December 19 and will then face rival Brother Rice at Warrior Relays on December 21 in Waterford.