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Grand Haven swim and dive team uses team depth for back-to-back wins

Josh VanDyke • Jan 12, 2018 at 2:05 AM

GRAND HAVEN TWP. — It would have been easy for the Grand Haven boys swim and dive team to get tired, make excuses and take its collective foot off the gas pedal after an emotional win over Spring Lake on Tuesday.

Add in the fact that the Buccaneers were competing in their third meet in five days, and you couldn't blame them if they ran out of gas against an up-and-coming Grandville squad on Thursday night at the Grand Haven Aquatic Center.

That's not the case for this year's Buccaneers, however, as the team bonded together through the treacherous schedule to win seven events and come away with a 187-128 win over the Bulldogs.

"It's been a busy week for us," said Grand Haven head coach Doug Thorne. "It's the first full week back from school, the kids are tired from school, let alone morning practices and three meets in a short amount of time. I know I'm feeling it and I'm sure they are, too.

"This was a gut-check meet for us tonight. We were coming off a big meet against Spring Lake. We knew it was going to be close, but our depth prevailed. I told the guys yesterday that tonight's meet was going to be a lot like Spring Lake. We might break even in the event wins, but we are swimming eight lanes and our depth is really going to help us out."

For the second meet in a row, the Buccaneers relied on second-, third- and fourth-place finishes to score points and pull away in an otherwise tight contest.

"We've got four or five guys in every event that can score for us," added Thorne. "It's fun because the kids are training hard and it makes the whole experience enjoyable. Everyone has a chance to do something for the team to help us win."

One motivational tool that the Buccaneers used on Thursday was some positive thinking after a big rivalry win Tuesday.

"Yesterday, we got really hyped at practice," said senior team captain Grant Ruster. "We felt confident coming off of Tuesday's win over Spring Lake. I didn't think we were going to win, but we came out really strong and that was an important win. We had lost to them the last two years, and I didn't want to lose to them my senior year.

"Everyone is getting faster now. Our mentality is that first place is cool, but getting second, third and fourth as a team is even better. That is what is scoring us points, and that is what is going to win us meets."

Opening up the meet was the 200-yard relay team of Carter Brown, Jackson Hamm, Mason Fritz and Mark Wilgenburg with a first-place finish at 1 minute, 41.6 seconds.

Senior standout Grant Ruster followed suit with a win in the 200 freestyle with a state-qualifying time of 1:46.63.

"Grant had a great meet tonight," said Thorne. "He was very close in the 100 fly, as well. Then he anchored the 400 relay and that team qualified. He is our go-to swimmer, but his leadership is probably his best quality. He works out so hard that pushes everyone one to train as hard as he does. That just makes the whole team better."

The Bulldogs would take the 200 individual medley and 50 freestyle sprint to tighten things up on the scoreboard.

In what might have been the changing event of the meet, Grand Haven's Lois Malott scored a 43-point dive in his final round of competition to steal the 1-meter diving event away from the Bulldogs.

Malott's 228.35 finish nipped Grandville's Luke Armstrong (227.5) by less than a point.

"Lois' win in the diving event really got us all going. He beat out their top two divers with his last attempt and won that event for us. I thought that really shifted the momentum in our favor.

Ruster used that positive momentum to put together one of his better 100 freestyle races of the season at 54.03 seconds, taking the gold in the event and adding to the Bucs' surging momentum.

The Bulldogs would take the 100 and 500 freestyle events, but Ruster and company again took the reins and pushed Grand Haven ahead for good.

The 200 freestyle relay team of Ruster, Wilgenburg, Eli Vandenbrand and Jordan Devries finished first with a time of 1:30.35.

Grand Haven's Carter Brown would add a win in the 100 backstroke with a time of 57.41 seconds to pretty much ensure a Grand Haven team win.

Grandville would add a win in the 100 breaststroke, before the Grand Haven 400 freestyle team of Fritz, Vandenbrand, Devries and Ruster slammed the door shut with a state-qualifying time of 3:18.85.

"We've got all three of our relay teams qualified for the state meet already and we aren't even halfway throughout season yet. I'm very proud of these guys for the effort they showed tonight, and we really put together a nice meet."

Grand Haven gets to enjoy some downtime for the weekend, before heading off to Rockford next Thursday.

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