Walking the plank

Duncan MacLean • Dec 9, 2016 at 12:12 AM

SPRING LAKE — Everyone loves rooting for the underdog, but what if the underdog makes a habit of winning?

Division 3 Spring Lake boys swim and dive seems to be doing just that.

The Lakers defeated Division 1 rival and neighbor Grand Haven on Thursday, 96-87. This marks just the third time in program history the Lakers have taken down the Buccaneers. The second being last season.

“My recollection is we beat Grand Haven my senior year of high school,” Spring Lake graduate and first year head coach Rob Peel said. “I told the guys before the meet, you have a chance to do something no one has in Spring Lake history, beat Grand Haven twice. That got them fired up.”

The Lakers certainly showed their enthusiasm. The 200-yard medley relay team exploded off the blocks, gunning down not only their Division 3 state cut, but the Division 1 state cut as well, topping the Bucs ‘A’ relay by seven seconds.

Grand Haven’s armada of 49 active swimmers proved to be useful, however, giving them second and third place points. This theme of Grand Haven depth and Spring Lake firepower would continue throughout the meet.

The state cuts would continue to rush in for both squads. Spring Lake would go on to capture cuts in nine events, while Grand Haven’s Grant Ruster was able to capture an elusive D1 cut.

The 200 freestyle showcased the depth of Grand Haven. Spring Lake freshmen standout Joey Wachter took the event swimming away, with a D3 state time of 1:52.35. Following Wachter was Matt Fahey, Brigham Thornock and Rielly Wisniewski of Grand Haven.

Grant Ruster took one of his two individual victories in the jack-of-all-trades 200 I.M., with a D1 qualifying time of 2:00.47. The mark also was good to break Cam Peel’s Spring Lake Aquatic Center pool record.

Kevin Losee led the Laker charge in the event, taking second with a D3 state time of 2:03.78, in front of teammate Erik Schock in third and two Bucs in fourth and fifth.

In the 50 freestyle, Cam Peel, possibly irked by the usurping of his pool record, set the pool on fire with a state qualifying time of 22.49 seconds. Cleanly trouncing Jordan Devries of Grand Haven, who, along with two teammates took second, fourth and fifth once again.

With so much depth from the Bucs, peace of mind was hard to come by at the Spring Lake Aquatic Center. “I’m nervous,” Peel admitted following the 50.

The diving break proved to be all Spring Lake. The Laker divers hosted a clinic on the boards, sweeping the medal spots.

Seniors Casey King and Gavin DeVries finished second and third, with 209.40 and 191.70, respectively. Sophomore firecracker Noah Locascio used a stellar final dive to top his teammate by a cool 1.35 points.

“That hurts, that hurts a lot,” Grand Haven assistant coach Matthew Schuchardt said after the diving break. “We’ve got our relays loaded, we will see.”

Drew Fogel, a Spring Lake junior, led the charge in the 100 butterfly with a state qualifying time of 55.97. Teammate Will Brown finished behind him for second in 1:01.48.

Cam Peel reprised his role as top-dog sprinter with a state-qualifying win in the 100 freestyle in 49.15, once again ahead of Grand Haven’s DeVries, at 51.46.

Two Lakers willed themselves to state cuts in the endurance contest, the 500 freestyle. Losee finished in 4:59.27, while Fogel clocked a 5:09.68. Thornock and Caleb Reeves took third and fourth for the Bucs.

As foreshadowed by coach Schuchardt, the Bucs made up some points on the relay. The whitewater 200 free relay went to Spring Lake, on the heels of a 21.96 anchor split by Peel.

Grand Haven managed to take second and third once again.

Freshmen Wachter returned to the pool for another impressive race in the 100 backstroke, clocking a 55.71. The swim fell just .12 short of the pool record and .99 of the school record in the event.

The Bucs, however, refused to face the plank. In a last ditch effort to catch the streaking Lakers, Ruster and senior Sam Hankinson took first and second in the 100 breaststroke in 1:03.17 and 1:06.25.

With the wind at their backs, the Lakers sealed the deal over their fellow seafaring rivals, with a ten second victory in the 400 freestyle relay, marking this crosstown rivalry alive and well.

“It is good to have a great rivalry with people right across the river,” Schuhardt said after the meet. “It gives our guys something to get excited about and get up and race for early in the season. Spring Lake is a quality program.

“We will be a different team in three months.”

“A lot of the guys know each other,” Peel said. “It makes it fun.

“I’m super proud of all the guys, we have been training hard. We had kids step up all over, so that feels great.

“Will Brown’s 100 fly, he got second at a time in the meet when we really needed a second. He never swims the 100 fly. It’s always fun to see kids step up in a race they are doing for the team, when if they had a choice they wouldn’t be swimming that.

“Joey Wachter’s 100 back, Kevin Losee’s 500 and Drew Fogel’s 100 fly were all impressive swims for their first duel meet of the year.”

The Bucs’ performance was none to drop the sails for, however.

“We learned a lot tonight, some of our guys it was the first time we saw them race,” Schuhardt said. “We will learn more every meet we go to. We’re proud of our guys overall, we’re going to grow and learn from this and be faster after Christmas break.

“Ruster made his I.M. cut, that was a big swim early in the season. Eli Vandenbrand in the 100 freestyle was 52, which is a big swim for him early. Sam Hankinson was as fast as he was at the conference meet last year, no shame tonight.”

The Lakers will continue to work toward a conference title and a meaningful appearance at the Division 3 state meet, while the Bucs have the illustrious O-K Red schedule to navigate and an elusive Division 1 state meet to chase.

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