In a preview of next month’s Division 3 state finals, the Lakers duked it out with East Grand Rapids for second place, eventually finishing behind the Pioneers (360) with 308 points.
Forest Hills separated from the pack, ahead of their trip to the Division 1 state meet, winning the conference with 429 points. Jenison took fourth (266), Northview fifth (227), Grand Rapids Catholic Central sixth (221) and Grand Rapids Christian seventh (202).
“We had a great weekend,” said Spring Lake head coach Rob Peel. “If you would have asked these guys a few days ago if they were going to swim as fast as they did, I don’t think they would have responded positively. They stepped up today and swam great.
“This really is a tune-up for the state meet. This conference has gotten so darn fast.”
Sophomore K.J. Losee led the way for Spring Lake with a nearly perfect outing. He kicked off his day with the butterfly leg of the 200-yard medley relay, joining with Joey Wachter, Will Brown and Cam Peel to take first place in 1 minute, 35.17 seconds. The swim was good for a new Northview Aquatic Center record, conference record and Spring Lake varsity record.
Losee took a short break before returning for event No. 3, the 200 individual medley, taking home his second gold medal of the day with a time of 1:58.64.
In his second individual event, Losee ballooned his margin of victory, winning the 500 freestyle in 4:49.19, nearly six seconds ahead of second place.
Finally, Losee concluded his day as a member of the 400 freestyle relay team, teaming up with Wachter, Peel and Drew Fogel for a second-place effort of 3:11.16.
“He is a crazy hard worker,” Peel said of Losee. “If we do these next two weeks right, he is going to have something special at state. He has really been working on his 500. I think he will have a nice drop at the state meet.”
Cam Peel saw his typical dominance challenged in the sprint events, as three of the state’s fastest sprinters went head-to-head. He would take third in the 50 freestyle (21.25) and second in the 100 freestyle (46.16).
The Lakers’ success continued in the sprint events, as Wachter came in just behind Peel for third place in the 100 freestyle(47.70) and two swimmers picked up state cuts. Senior Garrett Henning secured his first career individual state cuts with a seventh-place finish in the 50 freestyle (22.48) and eighth place in the 100 freestyle (50.11).
Junior Sam Sella wasn’t far behind, securing a lane at the state meet with a ninth-place finish in the 50 freestyle (22.60), and a 17th-place finish in the 100 freestyle (50.23).
“To get a couple more kids into the state meet at the end of the year is awesome,” Peel said. “Those two (Sella and Henning) had great drops today. For Garrett to make it for the first time in his senior year is perfect, exactly as it should be.”
Also cracking the top heat on Saturday for Spring Lake were Fogel with a fourth-place effort in the 200 I.M. (2:02.10) and a fifth-place finish in the 100 butterfly (54.18), Wachter finishing third in the 100 backstroke (52.62), Brown picking up sixth place in the 100 breaststroke (1:03.46) and the 200 freestyle relay team of Sella, Brown, Fogel and Henning taking sixth place (1:30.78).
All those finishes added up to an impressive Laker representation on the All-Conference list, as Brown, Fogel, Peel, Losee and Wachter received All-Conference honors.
“These kids are really fun to coach. They are all excited about the sport, they all understand the hard work and are focused on the big picture,” Peel said of his top training group. “We have so many young kids that are new to the sport. These leaders are young themselves, but they understand that their teammates are looking up to them.”
Highlighting the Laker action in the deep end was Johnny Meulenbelt, picking up a fifth-place finish in 1-meter diving with a final score of 321.30. Jaiden Lewis followed with a score of 203.25, good for 23rd place.
Following their third-place conference finish, Spring Lake will settle down for some rest, beginning the taper process ahead of the state finals. If everything goes according to plan, the Lakers have big goals in mind for March 9-10 at Saginaw Valley State University.
“Last year, we were top five and achieved our goal. It was our best finish ever,” Peel said. “Based on what I saw this weekend, I think we can be top four. Last year, we had guys who were thrilled to make the top heat and finished eighth. We need to move those guys into third or fourth now.
“The high school season is really short, except if you ask the kids. To finish like this at the conference meet and have high hopes for the state meet is awesome. That is the way it should be.”