Gabriel Sanchez-Burks Leads Pioneer to Third Consecutive MHSAA Boys Divison 1 Title

by Hannah Close 7

April 02nd, 2023 High School, News

MHSAA Boys Division 1 Championships

With their relay dominance and several high-scoring individual swims, Pioneer took home the MHSAA Boy’s Division 1 title for its third consecutive year. This is Pioneer’s 7th D1 title since the division’s emergence in 2003 and their 18th state title. The D1 league is one of the four divisions that comprise the Michigan High School Athletic Association, and includes the state’s largest high schools. Though Pioneer had numerous point contributors, their top scorer, senior Gabriel Sanchez-Burks, snagged wins in both of the sprint freestyles and played a crucial role in two of the team’s three champion relays.

2023 Top-8 Team Scores

  1. Pioneer- 288
  2. Holland West Ottawa – 177
  3. Brighton High School Boys – 156
  4. Novi – 155
  5. Zeeland High School – 147
  6. Saline High School – 143
  7. Northville High School – 137
  8. Detroit Catholic Central – 129

Recipient of the MHSAA Swimmer of the Meet award, Sanchez-Burks shared in an interview with what the team’s approach was to the meet after graduating many talented swimmers last year. “We lost a lot of good kids, but we stepped up. We encouraged the young guys to step up, and they did,” he said. “It was definitely my most memorable moment; we had so many great successes.”

Sanchez-Burks returned with a vengeance this year after being touched out for 1st in the 50 free last season. This year, he won the event with a 20.19. He also saw great improvement in his 100 free this year. Dropping almost a second and a half, he won the event with a 45.25, a huge jump from last year’s 7th place finish.

Sanchez-Burks was joined by Jensen Wood, Edward Zhang and Henry Baumhover in the 200 medley relay to kick off the meet, winning the event by over half a second with a time of 1:33.73. The runner-up relay from Brighton High gave Pioneer a target to chase with a 49.17 first 100 split, more than 2 seconds faster than Pioneer’s. A great deal of that lead is credited to Brighton’s breaststroke leg, Luke Newcomb, who split a blazing 24.89. 

Pioneer’s anchor, Sanchez-Burks, dove in still 1.7 seconds behind Brighton and pulled off the heroic split of 19.67, a time that was impossible for Brighton’s 21.99 anchor to hold off. 

The only other freestyle leg in the field close to that clip was the 50 free runner-up Julian Carrier, a senior for Holland West Ottawa, with a swift 20.06. Another notable split came from Olin Charnstrom out of Oxford–whose relay only placed 12th. His 22.82 was nearly 1.5 seconds faster than the next fastest split.

Sanchez-Burks also helped out his team in the 200 free relay, leading off in a 20.63 and giving them a comfortable lead. He was joined by teammates Justin Su, Young Jun and Christopher Leuciuc, who all scored in their individual races. 

Leuciuc led that pack with a 4th place finish in the 200 IM and 100 back, crucial depth points for the team. Another Pioneer swimmer who scored a great deal of points for the team was freshman Baumhover, who took third in the 200 IM with a 1:53.48 and 9th in the 100 fly with a 51.42 (a time that would have earned him 6th if he placed top-8 in prelims).

Baumhover also came in handy on the 400 free relay where he was joined by teammates Leuciuc, Su and Zhang. The trio of 47 lows combined with Zhang’s 46.53 split for a 1st place time of 3:07.96.

Only a freshman, Zhang was one of Pioneer’s biggest contributors at this meet, taking 5th place in the 200 free and 6th in the 500 free.

Senior Ryan Gurgel from Canton was another double-event winner at this meet in the 200 free and 100 fly. His 200 free time of 1:39.66 was only a slight improvement from his 2022 runner-up swim, but with all other 2022 top-5 swimmers in this event having graduated, the first place crown was wide open for his taking. 

Gurgle defended his crown in the 100 fly, winning with a 49.00 and dropping 3 tenths from last year’s swim. Notably, the runner-up in this event was Nicholas Suranyi of Novi who dropped well over a second from last season, improving greatly upon his 2022 7th place finish. Suranyi also dropped almost a second in his 200 IM, moving from 5th last year to runner-up.

The only other two-time individual champion was a sophomore from Zeeland, Owen Stevens, who won gold in the 200 IM and 500 free. There wasn’t much competition for Stevens in those events as he won by a very comfortable 2.5 second margin in the IM and twice that in the 500.

Last year’s runner-up, senior Julian Cardenas of Rockford High School, won the 1 meter diving event by a hefty 60 point margin.

The last two individual event wins went to 200 medley relay stand-outs, Charnstrom in the 100 back with a 49.04 and Newcomb in the 100 breast with a 55.34. Both juniors also placed top-8 in their second individuals. 

Team Scores and Placing

Though Pioneer scored nearly 80 points less than last year due to the graduation of high-scoring swimmers, they still came out on top due to the point spread among teams.

Last year’s runner-up fell to 7th place due to the graduation of many top scorers, leaving that position open for last year’s third place team, West Ottawa.

Two new teams cracked into the top-8 this year: Brighton High and Novi took 3rd and 4th. 

2023 Top-8 Team Scores 2022 Top-8 Team Scores
1. Pioneer- 288 1.Pioneer – 365
2. Holland West Ottawa – 177 2. Northville High School – 267
3. Brighton High School Boys – 156 3. Holland West Ottawa – 195
4. Novi – 155 4. Saline High School – 187.5
5. Zeeland High School – 147 5. Macomb Dakota High School – 157
6. Saline High School – 143 6. Hudsonville High School – 99
7. Northville High School – 137 7. Zeeland High School – 95
8. Detroit Catholic Central – 129 8. Detroit Catholic Central – 87


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5 months ago

Any idea where Sanchez-Burks is going to college?

Demarrit Steenbergen
Reply to  Joe
5 months ago

That’s the trick, I’ve heard he doesn’t want to. Doesn’t do club, only HS so even raw-er of a talent than most. Supposedly rejected a UMich offer.

Reply to  Demarrit Steenbergen
5 months ago

It’s true that he is still figuring this one out. UM is still in play.

Last edited 5 months ago by JSB
Michigan fan
Reply to  Joe
5 months ago

He was also one of the best water polo players in the state this year

Demarrit Steenbergen
Reply to  Michigan fan
5 months ago

Stupid sport

Gabriel Burks
Reply to  Demarrit Steenbergen
5 months ago

I would disagree

Reply to  Joe
5 months ago

He is still deciding.