The Bucs’ state team went from one to four on Thursday as their 200-yard freestyle relay team made the cut for the big dance. The celebration came in the middle of another tough O-K Red Conference outing for Grand Haven, as they fell, 198-115, to visiting Hudsonville.
The team of Grant Ruster, Ethan Ball, Eli Vandenbrand and Jordan Devries punched their ticket by winning the 200 freestyle relay in 1 minute, 31 seconds.
Ruster kicked things off with a state-qualifying swim in his own right. His 22.04 leadoff split would have earned him a date at state if he hadn’t captured that honor in the 50 freestyle already.
Ethan Ball turned in a 23.85 in the two-spot before Eli Vandenbrand, returning to the pool from injury, threw down a 23.01 split.
The Division 1 state-qualifying time of 1:31.09 calls for each swimmer to split 22.77 or lower. Jordan Devries, the anchor leg, had his work cut out for him.
Devries ripped off a 22.10 to drag the team back under the cut, guaranteeing the Bucs a lane at the Division 1 state championship prelims on March 10 at Oakland University.
“We got one of them done,” Grand Haven head coach Doug Thorne said after the meet. “We loaded up tonight to try and see where we are at on our relays. I was expecting to just see how close we could get, and we got the 200 free relays. I’m real happy about that.”
The same team took another crack at qualifying in the 400 freestyle relay at the conclusion of the meet, falling short of the 3:19.69 cut, at 3:22.38, taking first in the event. Ruster led off once again in a state-qualifying time.
“Grant Ruster had a good meet,” Thorne said. “His freestyle sprints look good, he is doing really well.”
The opportunity for the 400 to qualify before the conference championship has not passed, however. One of those four is not quite up to full speed after a dry-spell.
“Eli is back in the water, he isn’t all the way healthy yet, but he’s another guy who may qualify for himself,” Thorne said. “We wouldn’t have qualified that (200 freestyle) relay without him.”
Individually, the Bucs found some success against the Eagles, as well. Louis Malott secured a personal best 6-dive score of 216.75 in 1-meter diving, winning the event in the process. Garrett Miracle also posted a season-best score of 177.75 to take second place.
The 100 butterfly uncovered a diamond in the rough for the Bucs, with Aiden Martin establishing himself as a newfound butterflyer.
“Aidan Martin is a young man like many of them that just continues to keep training every day and stay the course and work hard,” Thorne said. “I gave him the opportunity to swim the 100 fly today and find out what he can do, he is right there in the thick of things with the rest of the flyers, and that makes everyone better.”
With the team building toward full strength and speed, the end of the season could not come at a better time. Their final dual meet of the year comes next week at home against East Kentwood, where they Bucs will celebrate senior night, and look for their first O-K Red Conference win of the season.
“Next week is an important meet,” Thorne said. “We have five seniors that it will be their last meet here, it is a special time for those kids. They have put a lot of time and effort into this program, and the relationship you build with a kid over four years, you hate to see them go but know they are moving onto bigger and better things.
“The excitement of knowing this meet is about them, that is important to me and important to the team.”
The idea of a conference win is also in the mind of coach Thorne, who said he will encourage his guys to swim to win events rather than focusing on times. With one final chance at home the Bucs will look to finish off the regular season with a flourish.