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One for the books

Duncan MacLean • Nov 21, 2016 at 12:05 AM

HOLLAND— While East Grand Raids swam away with yet another Division 3 state championship, a team from the lakeshore made a splash of its own at the Holland Aquatic Center.

The Spring Lake girls swim team sent a team of eight athletes to the state meet this year and set a few benchmarks for the program.

“I’m extremely proud of how hard that everyone worked this year and how they embraced all the changes we put on them,” said Spring Lake coach Ellen Weisse. “We did everything we could today to keep our places. I’m really proud of this team.”

Led by the school record setting 200-yard medley relay team, the Lakers stroked their way to eighth place overall; the highest finish for a girls team in school history.

The relay team of Meghan Peel, Jennifer Meulenbelt, Annie Brechting and Sara Mumby opened the meet clocking a 1:48.28, eclipsing their own school record set at this years conference championship meet by three seconds.

The foursome united for their journey into the Spring Lake history books last year as the ‘A’ medley relay. They broke the former school record at the 2015 state meet, and had high hopes to lower their standard even more this year.

The effort was good enough to grab fourth place in the event overall, behind powerhouse swimming schools like the formally Division 2 Bloomfield Hills Marian and East Grand Rapids.

The stellar relay performance bolstered solid results across the board for the rest of the day. The Lakers managed to hold or improve their seeds in every swim.

“Their ability to rise up to the challenge really showed,” Weisse added.

Meulenbelt, who was in the pool for Spring Lake’s first individual event of the day, in the 200 I.M., she was seeded seventh after clocking a 2:12.37 in prelims on Friday. She cycled her way through the four regulation strokes finishing in 2:13.3, holding seventh place on Saturday.

Mumby and Audra Bialik both failed to make it back to the finals in their next events. Mumby competed in the 50 freestyle, finishing 25th, while Bialik represented Spring Lake as their sole diver at the meet. She finished in 19th place—just three places outside of finals.

Peel took on her first individual final in the 100 butterfly. After a 58.87 second performance at prelims, Peel struggled to move up, but could not overcome her opponents. Her 58.20 held seventh place. Annie Brechting finished 28th at prelims in 1:01.97.

Mumby took another crack at finals in the 100 freestyle, this time finding success. A 55.29 at prelims earned her a spot in the consolation final on Saturday, seeded 15th. Adding one hundredth of a second at finals did not cost her any ground.

Allison Brown competed in her only swim of the weekend on Friday in the 500 freestyle, finishing 34th in 5:34.78

Brechting, Madelyn Rebideau, Carly Komar and Josie Brown gave it their all as the 200 freestyle relay team, tying for 25th at prelims.

Peel returned for her second individual swim with some extra motivation after a lackluster showing in the 100 fly.

“I just got mad. I was really mad about the fly,” Peel said of her comeback race. “I just kind of got mad and said, ‘its time to go, its your last event.’”

The extra emotion pushed Peel to a runner-up finish in 57.51 seconds, giving her Spring Lake’s highest finish of the meet.

Allison Brown locked up a 14th place finish in the consolation heat in 1:01.11

Meulenbelt closed out the individual heats on Saturday with a clutch time drop. Seeded fifth in the 100 breaststroke, Meulenbelt dropped two-tenths of a second off of her prelims time for a 1:06.89 to hold fifth.

The final drama of the meet came in the last event, the always exciting and painful 400 freestyle relay.

The girls sat two points behind eighth place going into the event and were not about to settle for ninth place.

“I knew we had to beat the lane next to us in over to beat them overall, as a team,” Meulenbelt said. “We were behind them by two pits going into the relay, that’s what drove me. I was really focused on hitting the wall before the other girl.”

The Laker’s season is certainly one for the record books, led by two swimmers who will be sorely missed by the program.

“They are both just incredible athletes and can overcome anything,” Weisse said of the All-State duo Peel and Meulenbelt.

Despite the loss in firepower for next season, Spring Lake’s girls swimming program seems to be trending up.

“We have some very strong juniors that will come into play next year and our sophomore class is up and coming.

Until next year, Spring Lake is a top ten program, for the first time ever.

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