After murky waters canceled their season-opening meet with Grandville, the Lakers traveled south to take on No.2-ranked Holland Christian in a tough early season dual meet, losing by a final score of 116-66.
The theme of the meet was firsts for the Lakers, who tested the waters in their opening meet with new events, strategies and even a new head coach. First-year head coach Kaci Weibenga was pleased with her team in an outing against a talented opponent.
“We talked a lot this week in practice and even on the bus today about focusing on you and the clock,” Weibenga said. “Don’t worry about anyone else. My only expectations today were flip turns on every wall, finishing your race and doing it with a smile on your face.
“It is your first meet, so we just want to see you have fun and enjoy yourself. If you do that, you will swim fast.”
If that is the case, freshman Eliza Hulverson was smiling ear to ear. She led the way for the Lakers grabbing their first individual victory of the season in the 200-yard individual medley with a state qualifying time of 2:21.63.
“We had quite a few freshmen with best times today,” assistant coach Ellen Weisse said. “We knew she was going to make state in several events this year, but that was a best time for her by five seconds.”
Hulverson returned to the pool for the 100 breaststroke, finishing in second place at 1:15.23, just missing out on a second state qualifying time.
“She will make the 100 breaststroke cut next meet,” Weibenga said.
Also coming up big for the Lakers was returning consolation state finalist Sara Mumby. She took home Spring Lake’s only other win of the night in the 50 freestyle, clocking in at 25.96.
Mumby also took on the 100 butterfly, taking fourth in 1:06.32 and joined three freshmen in Hulverson, Louise Vega and Josie Brown for a third-place effort in the 200-medley relay, coming in at 2:03.35.
Vega continued a theme of impressive freshmen, pacing the Lakers in the distance discipline. She took second in the 200 freestyle in 2:22.07 and third in the 500 in 6:22.13.
Rounding out the top-three finishes for the Lakers were the 200-freestyle relay team of Hulverson, Josie Brown, Madi Miller and Madelyn Rabideau, grabbing second place in 1:50.94; and the 400-freestyle relay team of Mumby, Vega, Emma Tober and Rabideau in second place at 4:12.99.
“We had quite a few freshmen with best times, which is really exciting,” Weisse said. “Rebecca Rederer and Josie Brown had awesome 50-free splits in the medley relay, and Madi Rabideau had a nice 500.”
On the spring board, the Lakers represented well. Audra Bialik led the way with a runner-up finish, scoring 199.95 points. Ellie Higgs followed in fourth place with a score of 173.2, while Ronnie Russell finished in sixth at 151.50.
“It was a good first meet for the Laker divers,” head diving coach Tom Knight said. “Audra got off to a great start finishing second, Ellie Higgs was just a half point out of third place and Ronnie Russell overcame one shaky dive with a good score.”
Freshman diver Ronnie Russell made some waves, scoring 172.9 points as an exhibition diver, earning her a spot on the scoring team in their next meet.
The divers return to the pool today for the board portion of the West Michigan Relay event, while the swimmers take on the zany meet at Rockford on Saturday.
West Michigan Relays features exclusively four-woman relay events, most of which the athletes won’t revisit at all over the course of the season.
“A lot of that meet is team bonding, it is a fun meet and the pressure is off,” Weibenga said. “It gives the swimmers a chance to just have fun racing, without the pressure of winning or state cuts or best times. It leaves all that behind and gives them a chance to enjoy it.”
The Lakers return to traditional competition at home Tuesday against Forest Hills Central at 6 p.m.