Mother Nature hasn't been cooperative for many spring sports teams this spring, but it's been especially cruel to the Grand Haven track and field teams, which are trying to develop a lot of young talent but frigid and rainy weather is making that task more difficult to accomplish.
“A lot of our middle- and longer-distance kids, it doesn’t affect as much, it’s just not as fun, but it’s been really tough on our field events,” said Grand Haven boys’ coach Joe Nelson. “Our hurdlers, it’s hard to jump when it’s cold and snowy, or try pole vaulting when you can’t grip the stick. But the kids are still working hard and they’re not complaining. It’s encouraging.”
Nelson thought his squad would have a shot at knocking off at least West Ottawa on Wednesday during an O-K Red double dual featuring the Panthers and Rockford at Buccaneer Stadium, but the Bucs came up 0-for-2 in the meet.
Rockford defeated the Bucs, 93-39, while West Ottawa won in the head-to-head score, 82.5-49.5.
Grand Haven’s girls squad is also battling with an inexperienced roster, but they’re starting to show signs they’re ready to compete for the long haul. The Bucs split their double dual by pulling out a too-close-for-comfort win against the Panthers, 70-67, but couldn't make it a clean sweep as talented Rockford team prevailed, 99-38.
"This group of girls has improved immensely over the last few weeks," said Grand Haven coach John Tarr. "Despite the weather, they've remained positive and enthusiastic. These kids are going to turn into something special soon."
Tarr already knows he has a special athlete in senior Grace Kendra, who scored pivotal points for the Bucs with wins in the pole vault (10 feet) and long jump (16-0 1/4), and a third-place finish in the 300-meter hurdles (53 seconds).
Maggie Lalonde also played a pivotal role in the tight win over West Ottawa, as she captured first in the 200 dash (28.32), second in the 100 (13.68), and helped the Bucs' 400-meter relay place second to Rockford. The relay also consisted of Ozette Ostrow, Mikaela Kroll and Kendra.
In distance events, Tarr signaled out Malea Teerman, who ran a personal best of 2:30.83 in the 800, which was good for third place; and a 5:30.57 effort in the 1,600, which also placed her third.
In the high jump, Maddie Draper defeated one of the best jumpers in the O-K Red, West Ottawa's Mikayla Martinie. Both cleared 4-11, but Draper accomplished the feat in fewer attempts, giving her the win.
Tarr also praised Kerrie Burnside, who is a newcomer to the team this spring, but is performing like a seasoned veteran. She turned in third-place showing in the 200 (29.32), was runner-up to Kendra in the long jump (14-3), and joined Claire VanWieren, Ostrowski and Maddie Sanchez on the Bucs' 800 relay that placed second to Rockford.
Grand Haven's boys defeated both the Rams and Panthers overall in just two events. The Bucs' 1,600 relay of Sam Schurkamp, Jack Clark, Mike Schroeder and Ben Comai finished in 3:41.84 to take top honors, while Chase VanHoef's heave of 40-5.75 in the shot put also bested the field.
In the overall field, Grand Haven fared well in the pole vault, where Brandt Gruizenga took second at 11-6 and Austin Schild was third at 10-6.
“Austin suffered a broken hand as a junior, which required surgery so he missed most of the year,” Nelson said. “He’s really coming along well for us.”
Joe Abbot earned a runner-up finish in the 110 hurdles (17.81), as did Will Swain in the 800 (2:10.49) and Alec Osborn in the 200 dash (24.53).
Mac Carter continued his strong showing in field events, with his best finish of the day came in long jump, where he was third with an effort of 18-4.
“I’ve been trying to get him out on the team since his freshman year, and he finally made it as a senior,” Nelson said. “We knew he could be good and he’s showing that.”
Justin Pippel was also third overall in the 3,200, clocking in at 10:21.70.
Grand Haven travels to Wyoming on Saturday for the Frank Grimm Relays.