Grand Haven swim features unique cast, qualifies two relays in rout of Ludington

Duncan MacLean • Sep 27, 2017 at 12:13 AM

Star power is great, but it doesn’t win swim meets, nor take care of relays. The Grand Haven swim team has come into some depth this season with a healthy crop of talented freshman and upperclassmen ready to take their game to the next level.

The Bucs hosted Ludington on Tuesday, easily dismissing the Orioles, 115-67. Highlighting the meet were two state-qualifying efforts by the Grand Haven 200-yard medley relay team and the 400-freestyle relay team.

“It was a good meet for us, we are coming off a big win over Grandville last week Thursday, so we were a little nervous moral might be down or there would be less excitement, but the kids did a great job tonight,” Grand Haven head coach Doug Thorne said. “To get two of those three relays done and qualified is nice early in the season. Now we don’t have to worry about it.”

The medley team of Kirbey Colella, Kathryn Ackerman, Annah Taylor and Alonna Clark clocked in at 1:53.03.

Freshman Ocean Veldhouse joined Ackerman, Taylor and Clark for their crack at the 400 freestyle relay, coming in at 3:42.52, three seconds under the state-qualifying time and 28 seconds ahead of second place Ludington.

The Orioles were out-gunned Tuesday at the Grand Haven Aquatic Center, opening up opportunities for Grand Haven to knock a few goals off their big board.

“It was a good meet to load up and see what we could do in our relays,” Thorne said. “That was goal No. 1. Goal No. 2 (Tuesday) was to get some younger kids an opportunity to swim something other than an exhibition event and give them an opportunity to swim in a varsity lineup and score some points.”

From the outset those younger swimmers came to play, as Grand Haven finished 1-3 in the medley relay. Ellyn Skodack, Mary Violet Springer, Georgia Basil and Brooke Zellman made the up the second-place “B” team, while Molly Woiteshek, Audra Shoop, Eleah Billings and Jessica Westhouse finished third as the “C” team.

Ludington took first in the 200 freestyle, but the Bucs clapped back with a Katalin Kovach (2:10.18), Kaylee Ireland (2:17.65) 2-3 finish.

Skodack (2:27.37) and Colella (2:35.61) returned to the pool for the 200 individual medley, putting together a four-stroke, 1-2 finish. Immediately following, Veldhouse (25.95) and Jessica Boyer (27.99) did the same in the 50 freestyle, giving the Bucs a commanding lead heading into the diving break.

The theme continued on the Bucs’ boards, as Stephanie VanNuil (203.85) and Kirsten Dykstra (160.10) took first and second place in 1-meter diving with season-best scores. Kendall Hamm followed in fourth with a season-high 155.15, while Kylie Klempel posed a 136.80 diving exhibition.

“All the divers did awesome tonight,” Grand Haven diving coach Darrin Driesenga said. “They were relaxed, there wasn’t a lot of stress, they dove their own meet. Top to bottom we had season bests.”

Basil (1:03.69) and Springer (1:08.57) tag-teamed the 100 butterfly as swimming events resumed, finishing 1-2 once again.

Boyer (59.94) and Alex Bergman (1:04.16) couldn’t keep the trend going, settling for a 2-3 finish in the 100 freestyle. Veldhouse (5:35.53) and Brooke Zellman (6:18.09) put the Bucs back on top, taking first and second place in the 500 freestyle.

The Bucs finished top-two again in the 200-freestyle relay, as Ackerman, Kovach, Clark and Veldhouse came in just 0.29 seconds behind the Division 1 state time.

Anna Ackerman (1:11.57) and Jenna Benson (1:16.37) joined Basil (1:04.58) for a 1-3 sweep of the 100 backstroke to round out the Bucs’ top-three finishes for the evening.

“We have a really solid group of workers here on this team,” Thorne said. “Ocean Veldhouse is a great addition the program, she will be one of thoise kids we wount on at the end of the year on our state relays, just a natural racer. It is pretty neat to see in a freshman.

“Boyer is one of those utility kids you can use anywhere. She trains hard with a smile on her face every day and will swim any event without complaint. It was Boyer and our swimmers like her that gave us that Grandville victory. In meets like those you need your depth, and we have a lot of girls like that this year.”

Grand Haven returns to the pool on Thursday to take on O-K Red Conference rival and defending state champion Rockford at home. It’s a tall task, but Thorne is optimistic.

“Rockford isn’t as good as they were a year ago, but they are still dang fast,” he said. “It doesn’t get any better than the O-K Red. We are coming on strong, but still have some time to go before we are up there with the Rockfords and West Ottawas of the world.

“There are spots where we can match up and swim some good races. We don’t have the top-end depth yet, but Grand Haven is gaining. I’m looking forward to the challenge and telling our girls, ‘Hey, you gotta race, this is what we train for.’”

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