A Grand Battle

Duncan MacLean • Jan 19, 2017 at 11:48 PM

GRANDVILLE — Nearly a season full of work is starting to pay off for a young Bucs swim team, but a loaded O-K Red Conference continues to beat them down.

The Bulldogs served as the latest aggressor, defeating Grand Haven, 178-137, at Grandville High School on Thursday. The Bucs were able to win two events and just missed on a few more.

“I think Grandville is going to be second in the conference when it is all said and done,” said Grand Haven head coach Doug Thorne after the meet. “They have quite a bit of depth and some fast up front kids. I’m pleased.

“(For) the kids who are working their butts off, it is starting to pay (off).”

If that is the case, Matt Fahey is missing a cheek or two. Fahey took one of the Bucs’ first-place finishes of the night in the 500-yard freestyle, clocking in at 5 minutes, 8.91 seconds, and just missed a victory in the 200 freestyle, taking second by 0.08 seconds.

“It felt pretty good,” said Fahey. “I feel like I’ve been working at that stroke and it is getting better. I was telling myself, ‘you got this, you can win.’ I think when it came down to it in the 200, it was just the touch. That was kind of frustrating.

“I just have to work on it. Keep working hard and push myself more.”

“I used him as an example at practice yesterday about pushing and working hard all the way through a set,” coach Thorne said of his newfound champion. “He sets an example for others. He’s a thrasher. He just goes and goes. He has a heart that just doesn’t stop. He dropped eight seconds this week in the 500, all on heart.”

Fahey said his goal for the final leg of the season is to secure a trip to the state championship meet, something the Bucs’ other event champion of the night, Grant Ruster, has already accomplished.

Ruster took his victory in the 200 individual medley in 2:02.30, just short of the Division 1 cut that he snagged earlier this season.

The stroke-specialist also helped Grand Haven secure significant points in freestyle events, taking second place in the 100 freestyle (50.09) and leading off the Bucs’ second-place 200 (23.49) and 400 (51.94) freestyle relay teams.

The 200 medley relay team of Ethan Ball, Sam Hankinson, Griffen Kelly and Jackson Hamm also took second place on Thursday.

Sam Hankinson nearly secured a third victory for Grand Haven, as he threw down a 1:05.37 in the 100 breaststroke. Hankinson took and held the lead through 75 yards of the race, before coughing up the win by less than 1 second.

Other top-three finishes for Grand Haven included Louis Malott flipping to third place in 1-meter diving (188.10) and Ethan Ball taking third in the 100 butterfly (1:03.76), and the 100 backstroke (1:01.60).

“We said before the meet we aren’t going to lay down,” Thorne said. “We are here to swim, it beats being at practice, so get up and race. I did see kids race hard tonight, and that’s a good thing.

“Nobody gave up, we tried, and I’m all right with that. The times will come.”

The buoyant Buccaneers have just three O-K Red meets remaining in Rockford, Hudsonville and East Kentwood, before the conference championship meet at the end of February. Coach Thorne reckons they will be able to close out the duel meet season on a high note with senior night against East Kentwood.

“They are the team we will be the most competitive with,” he said. “We have seen Rockford, and Hudsonville is up with Grandville, so that will be nice for our last home meet for the seniors.”

With state cuts promised and an elusive O-K Red victory foreshadowed, the Bucs are gearing up for a grand finish to the season.

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