Looking ahead

Duncan MacLean • Updated Oct 26, 2016 at 12:07 AM

GRAND RAPIDS — Optimism was the name of the game when Spring Lake took on Grand Rapids Christian on the campus of Calvin College on Tuesday night. The Lakers dropped their final meet of the regular season, 67-119.

Both teams were looking for a final test before their respective conference meets during the first week of November, with the Eagles shooting for last-ditch state cuts and the Lakers looking for final time drops and technique tune-ups.

“They should be very tired at this point of the season, so we said at the beginning of the meet that we were looking for swims that they were doing the right things, not necessarily going best times,” said Spring Lake coach Ellen Weise.

“We had a lot of people really bringing it back on the back half of their races, not breathing off walls, stuff like that that we have been working all season.”

The Lakers did manage to take away a few wins, two courtesy of Jennifer Meulenbelt. The senior standout took first in the 200-yard individual medley, clocking a time of 2:15.80. Her second win came in comeback fashion in the 500 freestyle, overcoming a slow start to finish in 5:26, and claiming first place.

Meghan Peel supplied the Laker’s other victory of the night in the 100 backstroke, leaving the field behind with a 1:01.55 finish.

Other performances highlighted by coach Weise were Madi Miller’s 100 freestyle and an impressive split in the medley relay by Sarah Mumby.

The Spring Lake divers also preformed admirably, finishing 2-4 in the final scoring of the event. Audra Bialik took second with 219.82 points, ahead of teammates Ronnie Russell and Ellie Higgs.

“It was a pretty good meet,” said Mumby. “It’s kind of hard, because it is the end of the season, and we are working really hard. We had a lot of good times and a lot of good events.”

“Overall, we had a nice meet, it wasn’t a win, our times weren’t anything off the charts crazy, but it’s exactly where we should be right now,” said Weise. “(The) Conference (meet) is in two weeks, we are excited.”

The Lakers’ next contest is the all-important conference meet. This is the final chance for swimmers to grab a state-cut or personal best time. Some athletes will begin the taper, or resting, process as well as shave-down and tech suit up in order to swim as fast as they can for conference meet.

“I’m excited for conference, it is a new conference, it’s a big deal,” Peel said.

“We are the new ones, we are the underdogs, but they know that there are standout swimmers on our team, so they are watching out,” Meulenbelt continued.

“I’m looking forward to the races,” Mumby said of the conference meet. “Everyone is going to have a good time, and we’re all matched up well. I’m excited for the races and seeing what everyone can do on the team.”

“We want to get a couple more state cuts, and we also want to bring our relay times down so we can have higher seeds at state,” coach Weise said of her conference expectations. “Some of our girls with individual times should be able to rank really high at state this year going into it. So we’re hoping to get them boosted up as well.”

Swimmers who have qualified for the state meet already will swim the conference meet like any other, and save their taper for the state championships.

Peel, Meulenbelt and Mumby are among this second group.

“Our focus, for Jen (Meulenbelt) and I, and Sarah (Mumby) as well, even though she is young, we are looking forward to state,” said Peel. “A lot of the people we are racing against in our individual events are seniors too, so it’s our last chance to race them and see what we can do. We are excited for that last chance.”

“I’m excited, and I think I’m going to drop time and the team is going to drop time,” added Meulenbelt.

While Mumby has a few more years to shape her swimming career, Peel and Meulenbelt are about to finish off their final year of high school swimming, something that is not lost on the dynamic duo. The two spoke to what they have learned through the sport over the years.

“A practice is as hard as you make it,” Peel said. “If you aren’t putting in the work you aren’t going to see the results. You have to be driven, determined, you have to have goals. It’s a passion.”

Meulenbelt echoed the sentiment.

“A year ago today, if you would have told me I would be doing the times that I am, I would have said no way. You need to push yourself if order to swim like you want to at meets,” she said.

Peel may have summed up the Laker’s narrative this year in her closing thought after the meet.

“Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard.”

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