Conference confidence

Duncan MacLean • Sep 19, 2017 at 1:01 AM

SPRING LAKE TWP. — Freshman firepower is key for a top-level swim team, and is best paired with stalwart senior leadership. The Lakers seem to have found their sea legs this season, combining talented youngsters with experienced veterans.

The Spring Lake girls swim and dive team took on Division 1 Forest Hills Northern/ Eastern in their first O-K Greater Grand Rapids Conference tilt Tuesday, defeating the Forest Hills co-op, 106-74.

Two relay victories, and wins for freshman Eliza Hulverson, junior Sara Mumby and senior Josie Brown propelled the Lakers to a star-studded victory. The depth of FHNE kept them afloat early, but couldn’t overcome the top-end speed of Spring Lake.

Spirits were high from the gun Monday night, as the Lakers kicked off the meet with a state-qualifying win in the medley relay. Louise Vega, Hulverson, Mumby and Brown clocked in at 1 minute 58.78 seconds, to win the event from 15 seconds and eclipsing the Division 3 state cut by just over one second, on the heels of an impressive backstroke split by Vega.

“We aren’t used to having that cut this early in the season, the girls were pumped up today,” Spring Lake head coach Kaci Weibenga said. “Louise led off with a two-second drop on her 50 backstroke, so that helped.”

The win set the tone for the rest of the meet, giving the Lakers all the confidence they needed to keep up with their Division 1 competition.

“We were pretty excited for this meet,” assistant coach Ellen Weisse said. “This is a team we beat at conference last year, so we were looking to beat them again this year.”

“After the medley, you could feel it throughout the team. There was a sense of relief like, ‘We can do this,’” Weibenga said. “That takes the pressure off, so you can have fun. It was really exciting to watch that unravel today.”

Vega made a quick turnaround to take second place in the following 200 freestyle, while FHNE took first, third and fourth to make up for the lost relay points.

Hulverson put the Lakers back on top with a win in the 200 individual medley, coming in at 2:19.84, while fellow freshman Zoe Komar took third.

The Lakers made their move in the 50 freestyle, as Mumby, Brown and senior Madelyn Rabideau swept the podium with a 1-3 finish. Mumby took home the win in 25.86, Brown second in 27.20 and Rabideau third in 28.22.

Forest Hills put on a show on the boards, as Gracie Sleeman shattered the Spring Lake Aquatic record with a 1-meter diving score of 291.95. Spring Lake’s Audra Bialik grabbed second place with 219.95, while Ellie Higgs took third with a score of 181.95.

The dominating performance by Sleeman was a sight to see, and Spring Lake diving coach Tom Knight encouraged his girls to drink it in.

“At first it can be intimidating for the girls, or boys, to go up against such a talented diver,” Knight said. “But then you have a talk with them and say, ‘There is always things you can look at and take away and learn.’ From the legs, to the toe point to the reach, there is always things you can learn just from watching good divers.”

Bialik and Higgs both responded heartily, posting their best scores of the season.

After the diving break, Brown returned to the pool for an impressive win in her first-ever try at the 100 butterfly, coming in at 1:08.06.

“She will be swimming it again,” Weibenga said. “That was a huge surprise and a confidence boost for her.”

Mumby continued to solidify herself as the teams’ top sprinter with a win in the 100 freestyle at 56.98, closing in on the state cut of 58.89.

In the distance showcase, Rabideau gave the fans a show; dropping 14 seconds off her time to give Bridgett Baker of Forest Hills a run for her money. The senior fell short, touching second by just 0.30 seconds.

Another dominating relay victory put the Lakers in the driver’s seat as the meet wore on. Hulverson, Brown, Rabideau and Mumby ripped off a 6.5-second win in the 200 freestyle relay with a time of 1:47.94.

From there, Spring Lake pulled away. Shalini Hayenga and Vega took second and third in the 100 backstroke at 1:11.11 and 1:11.23, respectively.

Hulverson rounded out the individual events with a win and her third state cut of the season, taking the 100 breaststroke in 1:14.02. Fellow freshmen Eve Geschiere snuck into second place at 1:23.55, just 0.10 ahead of third.

“Going 1,2 in the breaststroke was great,” Weibenga said. “I was really glad we got that state cut for Eliza and Eve got second with the touchout.

“This group of freshmen continues to be surprising. They just keep dropping time no matter where you put them. It is nice to see what they like and where they do well and to continue finding more things they do well.”

In the final event of the evening, Spring Lake took a second-place finish in the 400 freestyle relay.

The win resembles a strong lineup for the Lakers, but early season experimentation was not lacking from the meet and continued to reveal the potential of this Spring Lake team.

“We were looking forward to this meet, so while we were putting together the lineup we wanted to make sure we filled events as best as we could,” Weibenga said. “But, we did try some people in new events, which worked out well.”

“It is fun to know we have some people coming up to replace the people we lost last year,” Weisse said. “It is exciting to make the medley early and to have girls swimming all these different events.”

Spring Lake returns to the pool for another go at growing their state team on Saturday at the Holland Christian Invite at the Holland Aquatic Center.

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