A team of 12 Lakers took on the Wildcat Invitational at Jenison High School on Thursday, facing off with a unique crop of teams. They finished second overall with 241 points, ahead of host Jenison (201) in third place, Okemos (192), Battle Creek Lakeview (143) and Caledonia (129).
Fellow Division 3 powerhouse Holland Christian took home top honors with a suffocating 426-point effort.
“We swam great today, the boys did well.” Spring Lake head coach Rob Peel said. “We didn’t have really high expectations because we have been training really hard this week and last, but this is a great opportunity for the guys to matchup with Holland Christian, who will probably win the state meet this year.”
Since breaking five school records in their second meet of the season, Spring Lake has been cruising as their top training group continues to excel after an intense offseason of training.
Despite their world-beating top tier, the Lakers have struggled to win dual meets this season, with little depth to support their consistent event winners.
That truth was evident Thursday, but less damaging with six teams fighting for points.
The Lakers kicked things off with a silver-medal finish in the 200-yard medley relay, clocking in just 0.13 seconds behind the Maroons at 1 minute, 38.79 seconds.
That team of Joey Wachter, Will Brown, K.J. Losee and Cam Peel would dominate over the course of the meet in their individual events.
Peel took home gold medals in both of his individual swims, putting together a sweep of the sprint events. First, he took on the 50 freestyle, touching in first place with a time of 21.44.
Later, he etched his name into yet another record book as he grabbed a gold medal in the 100 freestyle in a meet-record breaking time of 47.72.
Losee traded on the silver standard Thursday, taking home second-place finishes in every event he swam. Following the medley relay, the sophomore finished runner-up in the 200 individual medley in 2:02.45 and in the 200 butterfly, clocking in at 54.77
Finally, Losee teamed up with Wachter, Peel and Drew Fogel for one last second-place effort in the 400 freestyle relay as the foursome clocked in at 3:17.39, three seconds behind the Maroons, once again.
Fogel maintained the runner-up trend when he took on the 500 freestyle, taking second in 5:02.33, while Holland Christian standout Skyler Cooks-Weeks advanced Thursday’s status quo with a victory in a ballistic time of 4:37.26.
In the mid-distance showcase — the 200 freestyle — Fogel finished in sixth place at 1:51.88, behind Wachter in fourth place at 1:50.92.
Wachter cracked the top three in his second individual event, nabbing third place in the 100 backstroke with a time of 54.90.
Noah Locascio represented the Lakers well on the boards, taking third place in 1-meter diving with a final score of 340.6.
Brown rounded out the big-time point earners for the Lakers with two fifth-place finishes in the 200 I.M. at 2:12.92, and the 100 breaststroke in 1:06.89.
The speed Spring Lake has enjoyed early in the season is a by-product of work ethic and a few special offseason opportunities, as Losee and Peel trained and tapered for the USA Junior National Championships near the beginning of the high school season, while others put in less high-profile summer and fall training.
Having in shape, speedy swimmers to kick off the season is a bit of a curveball for the traditional trajectory of training, but coach Peel doesn’t mind.
“It is a fun problem to have,” he said. “It is nice because those kids are ready to train hard right away. They have been going since early September so they are ready to go.”
The offseason success not only elevated the game of those involved, but also the team they joined up with when it was all said and done.
“We have a small group of kids who really push each other hard and it is really fun to watch,” Peel said. “They have fun in practice while working hard and it is rubbing off on the other kids.”
After a victory at the Wildcat Invitational last season, the runner-up finish was bittersweet Thursday, but was encouraging for a team looking to produce a few more substantial pieces by the start of the postseason. There, the Lakers hope to build on their highest state-meet finish ever last season.
“We graduated seven or eight seniors from last year’s team, and replaced them with a few freshmen who are brand new to swimming,” coach Peel said. “They are just learning, but they are learning from the right guys.
“Collin Schock swam his first 500 ever (Thursday), and stepped up to break six minutes. It was awesome. Connor Hallberg has a really nice 50 free and David Reynhout had a great 100 free, dropping three seconds off his best time. Those newer guys can have those big jumps and that is so much fun to see.
“Our kids work so hard, I don’t really have to worry about their times right now. They will come. For our top guys, their goals are so big, much bigger than our school records, and they know what they have to do to achieve them.”
Spring Lake returns to the pool for a jam-packed January, squeezing eight meets into the first month of 2018. They kick off the push Jan. 4 for a one-on-one home showdown with the Division 3 favorites, Holland Christian.