The Grand Haven girls swim and dive team took on defending state champion and O-K Red Conference rival Rockford on Thursday, falling to the Rams by a final score of 116-196.
Amidst mid-season training fatigue, sickness and three meets over the past six days, the Bucs were swimming on fumes Thursday, but put up a worthy fight, nonetheless.
“This meet is a great eye-opener for our kids,” Grand Haven head coach Doug Thorne said. “Rockford is as good as it gets. It is good for our kids to see that they have improved a lot, but there is still a mile to go.
“It’s Homecoming week, we had a meet Tuesday and a short practice yesterday. I’ve got a lot of sick kids, and the healthy girls are tired and sore. We didn’t swim great tonight, but I was pleased. They battled, they tried hard, but Rockford is just a darn good team.”
Grand Haven’s 200-yard freestyle relay team highlighted the meet, despite their runner-up finish. The team of Kathryn Ackerman, Annah Taylor, Ocean Veldouse and Alonna Clark put on a tremendous challenge for the Rams, clocking in at 1 minute, 41.50 seconds and earning a lane at the Division 1 state finals. The sprint relay was the last Grand Haven needed to qualify.
“For us, the benefit of getting them out of the way early is now we don’t have to waste a taper for a relay if we don’t want to,” Thorne said. “Now, we can focus on training the girls for getting to state individually.”
Clark and Ackerman led the Bucs in their individual events. Ackerman took on last year’s 100 butterfly state runner-up, Morgan Kraus, in her signature event. Ackerman fell behind on the back half of the race, taking second for the first time this season.
“It isn’t her best event, but is still a good event,” Thorne said of the All-Star race. “Her time was a little slower than she has been this season. She missed a couple turns, but swam well.
“For her to be able to have a race like that midseason is good, win or lose, it is great for her to have a challenge and have to get up and race.”
She returned for the 100 breaststroke, grabbing a landslide victory in 1:07.25.
Clark kicked off her meet with a runner-up finish in the 200 individual medley, coming in three-seconds behind the leader at 2:18.09. She, like Ackerman, couldn’t take losing twice. In the 500 freestyle, Clark took put on a show, taking home first place with a time of 5:21.87.
“Alonna Clark had a great meet tonight,” Thorne said. “She is really close to qualifying individually. She had a great I.M. and 500 free, and she anchored our qualifying relay. She had a great, great meet.”
On the boards, Stephanie VanNuil denied the Rams a sweep in 1-meter diving, taking second place with a score of 208.05.
“Meets like this are good for our girls, they force you to get up and race and take in the competition,” Thorne said. “It is unfortunate to have them in our conference, but at the same time it is good to have them so close. There it is, the best of the best, right in front of you. There is the stick, we swam it, we saw it. Now, we get back to training like we know how and continue our course, hopefully someday the tides will turn.”
The Bucs will enjoy some well-earned time off before returning to conference competition at Hudsonville on Oct. 5.