WOah Nelly

Duncan MacLean • Jan 13, 2017 at 12:04 AM

WEST OTTAWA — Sometimes in athletics, the effort is all that counts. Grand Haven’s meet at West Ottawa on Thursday was one of those contests.

An exceptionally talented Panther roster swept the young Buccaneer lineup to take the meet by a total score of 186-121.

West Ottawa sports some of the best swimmers in Division 1 currently and sits at No. 1 on the MHSAA top-times list in multiple events, including the 200-yard medley relay.

The Panthers swam a mixed-up lineup against Grand Haven, but still managed to break a pool record in the 100-yard backstroke, with Spencer Carl taking a 12-second victory in 50.83 seconds.

“The kids knew going in, its not going to get any harder than West Ottawa,” said Grand Haven head coach Doug Thorne. “They are incredible. Probably the deepest West Ottawa team I’ve seen since I’ve been coaching.”

The deep speed certainly showed Thursday, as the Bucs did not manage a win in any event, but were able to scrap for a few medal positions, anyway. Grant Ruster and Jordan DeVries continue to lead Grand Haven with an iron will to compete.

DeVries started his day taking on the 200-yard freestyle, placing second in 1:54.14 seconds, while Ruster took third in his first event, the 50 freestyle, clocking in at 22.48 seconds.

The pair then took on the 500 freestyle, with Ruster taking third in 4:59.36 and DeVries fifth, in 5:18.07.

“They swam well,” Thorne said of his top pair of swimmers. “They raced hard, that’s all you can ask for in a meet like this. They bring their lunch pales and go to work every day. They really set the tone for the rest of the guys.”

While the top-end speed of Grand Haven swim continues to slog through yards, the remainder of the nearly 50-man roster is starting to show some real promise.

The highlight of the meet for the Bucs came in the 100 freestyle. Eli Vandenbrand and Ethan Ball took on the four-length tank-emptier with gusto, taking second and third place in 52.88 and 53.17.

The Bucs’ effort in the 500 freestyle showed real progression for coach Thorne.

“Matt Fahey and Griffen Kelly in the 500 had real nice swims,” he said. The pair finished fourth and sixth in 5:16.69 and 5:30.15, respectively.

“Mark Wilgenburg went 24 low for us in the 50 free,” Thorne added to the list of impressive swims for the young Bucs. “That’s going to help, that’s going to score points.

“We swam around a bit tonight, had some guys in different events, and it opened my eyes a little bit. I’m real pleased with my guys.

“It is important when you are in an off event that you know isn’t your best event, that you don’t lay down. We preach that every day in practice. We’re not going to lay down for anybody, we may get beat when it’s all said and done, but that’s not what it is about. It’s about doing your best and going into a meet to say ‘hey, I tried’, go in and compete.”

The resilient Grand Haven swimmers will continue to compete with another O-K Red matchup with Grandville next Thursday.

“Grandville is going to have to swim a strong lineup to beat us,” Thorne said. “We will make a meet out of it.”

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