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Relay well

Duncan MacLean • Dec 18, 2017 at 12:00 AM

The Grand Haven boys swim team hosted the West Michigan Relay meet on Saturday, bringing together top-tier competition from the area for a day of low-stakes racing.

The meet featured the three traditional high school relay events, as well as a bevy of other non-traditional events not swum in typical competitions, making for a fun atmosphere at the beginning of the season.

The Bucs finished third overall out of 14 teams, coming in behind champion West Ottawa and second-place Forest Hills. Grand Haven finished just ahead of East Grand Rapids in fourth, Rockford in fifth, Zeeland in sixth, Grandville and Hudsonville tied for seventh, Byron Center in ninth and Jenison in 10th.

The finish put Grand Haven ahead of multiple O-K Red Conference rivals, making their second meet of the season a success.

“Third is a great finish for us. We swam really well across the board today,” Grand Haven head coach Doug Thorne said. “That may be the highest Grand Haven has finished at this meet.”

Amidst the fairytale relay configurations, including a 200-yard backstroke relay where swimmers start from the blocks and flip to their backs underwater, some valuable work was done Saturday.

In the final event of the day, Grand Haven picked up their 200-freestyle relay state championship qualification time, clocking in at 1 minute, 28.72 seconds. Grant Ruster, Eli Vandenbrand, Jordan Devries and Mark Wilgenburg took first place in the event, finishing off the meet at home in style.

“A successful day,” Thorne said. “Getting relay cuts out of the way early in the season like that is always nice.”

The state-qualifying effort would be the Bucs’ lone victory of the day. They owe their high point total to sheer numbers of competitive athletes.

“Our depth was really on display today,” Thorne said.

“This kind of meet is good for us,” assistant coach Matthew Schuchardt said. “We don’t have a lot of top-end speed, but we have four guys who can compete and hold their own in every event.”

The Bucs kicked off the meet with a draw, finishing tied for sixth place in the 400-medley relay with the team of Carter Brown, Thomas MacDonald, Griffin Kelly and Jack Timmer coming in a 3:58.94, dead even with Byron Center.

Next, Jackson Hamm, Colvin Curtis, Matt Beals and Macdonald grabbed fourth-place in the 200 breaststroke relay with a time of 2:04.99.

The 500 progressive relay came next, where the lead swimmer swims 50 yards, with each subsequent swimmer adding two lengths each leg to add up to a total of 500 yards. The Bucs took fifth in the exponential relay with Vandenbrand, Devries, Fahey and Ruster finishing in 4:26.66.

They did one better in the 400 individual medley relay, where each swimmer rushes through 25 yards of the four regulation strokes. Ball, Brown, Mason Fritz and Ruster alternated their way to a fourth-place finish in 3:59.49.

In the more straightforward 200 butterfly relay Hamm, Kelly, Wilgenburg and Fritz soared into sixth place with a time of 1:42.71.

The Bucs repeated in the iron man event of the day as Ball, Michael MacDonald, Devries and Fahey took sixth place in the 800 freestyle relay in 7:46.36.

In the topsy-turvy 200 backstroke relay Grand Haven moved back to fourth as Aiden Latchaw, Fritz, Ball and Brown stroked to a 1:46.05 finish.

The final three events of the day were the three regular high school relays. Vandenbrand, Wilgenburg, Michael MacDonald and Fahey took on the 400 freestyle relay, finishing in seventh place with a time of 3:30.28.

In the 200 medley relay, Latchaw, Hamm, Griffin and Zach Deur also took seventh in 1:48.89 before the 200 freestyle relay team worked their magic to finish off the meet, finishing just 0.7 second off their time from the Division 1 state championship meet last season.

With a deep team starting to click against high-level competition, and their top-end leaders already in state-finals shape, the Bucs are ready to take on the plucky, speedy Lakers as they host Spring Lake on Thursday in their return to competition.

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