This year’s Spring Lake boys swim and dive team began the year with a first-time head coach, a handful of returning state-level swimmers and one lofty goal: a higher finish than ever at the Division 3 state meet in March. Months of training later, the Lakers took home fifth place over this weekend at the Holland Aquatic center, eclipsing their former highest finish of eighth.
The goal was achieved with a grand total of 153 points for the Lakers, coming in behind fourth-place Chelsea, third-place Holland Christian, runner-up East Grand Rapids and state-champion Cranbrook-Kingswood.
“I did tell the kids in the beginning, because I knew we had a pretty good nucleolus of good swimmers, that we could make Spring Lake swimming history,” said first-year head coach Rob Peel. “That was a rallying point for all of us to stay together. Regardless if you score big points or not, you have the opportunity to swim on a team that just got fifth in the state. That’s pretty awesome.”
Photos from Saturday’s finals session
With their sights set on a top-eight finish, the Lakers went to work right away, kicking off the Saturday finals session with a fourth-place finish in the 200-yard medley relay. The team of Joey Wachter, Will Brown, Kevin Losee and Cam Peel finished in 1:36.58, lowering their school-record standard set at the conference meet two weeks ago.
Wachter pulled off a quick turnaround, hitting the pool for the consolation finals of the very next event, the 200 freestyle. He took 12th overall in a time of 1:46.37, one of the rare instances of a Laker adding time in an event.
The Lakers grabbed more than a few points in the following 200 individual medley, with a swimmer in both the consolation and championship finals. Drew Fogel made the most of the “B” final, winning the heat in a best time of 1:59.37.
Freshman Losee returned to the pool for the championship final of the I.M, taking seventh overall, claiming all state honors in 1:59.44.
Following the four-stroke flight, it was time for speed, which Peel had plenty of. The sprinter legacy took sixth in the 50 freestyle, clocking in at 21.47.
Divers Noah Locascio and Casey King qualified for the big dance for the Lakers, but failed to make it into Saturday’s finals.
Losee returned to fly solo in the 100 butterfly, taking 12th in 53.28 as the lone Laker in the event.
After being less than satisfied with his sixth place finish in the 50, Peel doubled down and took on the 100 freestyle with the leaders in mind. He splashed and dashed his way to a third-place finish in 46.99, securing him All-State honors.
Senior Charlie Slajus put together a stellar final individual race to cap off his career, taking 12th in the 100 freestyle in 48.38.
The Lakers did not enter anyone in the distance event, the 500 freestyle, electing to skip right back to more high-octane sprinting. The 200 freestyle relay team of Slajus, Fogel, Garrett Henning and Eric Schock took 13th overall from the consolation final in 1:30.21.
Wachter, after some well earned time off, slid into the championship final of the 100 backstroke, setting a fresh school-record by taking third place in 52.95.
After tying for the 16th and final spot in the finals at Friday’s prelims, Brown was faced with a one-on-one swim off at the end of the session for the spot on Saturday. Brown won the swim off, dropping over one second off his time.
On Saturday, he did one better, climbing into 15th place in a time of 1:01.39.
Finally, the Lakers solidified their place in Spring Lake history by running with the big dogs in the 400 freestyle relay. Losee, Slajus, Wachter and Peel took third-place in 3:10.35, lowering their school record even further. They finished behind only the winning team from Holland Christian and the eventual state-champion team from Cranbrook-Kingswood. The Lakers beat out East Grand Rapids by over one second.
The Lakers’ success this season was measured in even increments, with five school records falling and a fifth-place finish, the highest of any team in the programs history. The 2012 state team previously held that honor with their eighth-place finish.
“I guess it is really satisfying, it feels really good. It’s been more fun for me to get to know these kids,” coach Peel said. “You see them gain confidence in this sport that hopefully translates to other things for them.”
With just two members of the state team departing upon graduation, this young Laker team won’t just be making waves in Spring Lake history books over the next few years.
“Our younger guys, it was their first state or big meet experience, and they responded wonderfully,” coach Peel said. “It is always fun too when you have seniors, Charlie and Eric Schock, swim their best times ever, and they did it in their last meet.”
The top-five finish marked a turning point in the Spring Lake program, with a bright future ahead, coahc Peel is confident the accolades will not end here.
“I was up in the stands last year at Eastern (Michigan), Cam was on the last relay with three seniors. We beat the school record by about 3 seconds at 3:16, and everyone was thrilled, now this year, we go 3:10. I joke that hey we were thrilled with 3:16 last year and now ill be upset if we go 3:11.
“To quote Michael Jordan, ‘the ceiling is the roof.”