Grand Haven swimming celebrates seniors; begins taper season

Duncan MacLean • Oct 24, 2017 at 12:11 AM

The conclusion of the regular season in swimming marks an exciting time. Grueling workouts give way to rest, morning practices are exchanged for extended sleep time and sights turn from training to performing.

With the conference and state championship meets right around the corner, the Grand Haven girls swim team celebrated the end of their regular season with an emphatic win over Hamilton on Saturday, while recognizing the achievements and hard work of seven senior swimmers and divers.

“The meet was great, it was a nice day in the afternoon Saturday, the atmosphere was buzzing,” Grand Haven head coach Doug Thorne said. “It was a good meet to end the season on. The girls were excited, and we swam pretty fast overall.”

The Bucs took the non-conference win 120-66, winning nine of 12 events over the Hawkeyes. Kirbey Colella, Katalin Kovach, Annah Taylor and Brooke Zellman kicked things off with a win in the 200-yard medley relay, with a time of 1 minute, 57.71 seconds. Freshman Georgie Basil continued her arrival season with a win in the 200 freestyle (2:02.15), followed by Alonna Clark winning the 200 individual medley with a state-qualifying performance (2:14.48).

Taylor returned to the pool for a victory in the 100 butterfly (1:01.62), followed by Basil with a win in the 500 freestyle (5:20.94). Immediately following the distance-test, Basil anchored the victorious 200 freestyle relay, joined by Clark, Ocean Veldhouse and Zellman (1:45.28). Ellyn Skodack took her place atop the podium in the 100 backstroke (1:03.47), before Kovach finished off the individual events with a win in the 100 breaststroke (1:16.80). Finally, Basil, Veldhouse, Taylor and Clark took the 400 freestyle relay (3:56.61) to close out the meet.

All that positive energy was partially fueled by Senior Day festivities. Jenna Benson, Clarissa Cherry, Paige Kramer, Brielle LaCourse, Lauren Morgan, Stephanie VanNuil, and Katalin Kovach swam their final meet at the Grand Haven Aquatic Center on Saturday, and were lauded by Thorne for their dedication and hard work.

“Our speed this year comes mostly from our younger group of kids, so when the older kids do the little things right and lead by example, it is tremendous for the program,” Thorne said. “You can count on these girls to show up and work hard every day and lead by example. We are losing some quality kids. Persistent and resilient, this is a good group of girls that came in together and stuck it out together.”

Leading the way in the pool was Kovach, who has been a part of the Grand Haven state team for three years, and is set to make it four come championship weekend this season. She is considering studying architecture at Michigan State University, but is yet undecided on her future plans.

“In addition to her swimming success, she is highly academic,” Thorne said. “Her, Benson and VanNuil all are members of the National Honor Society, adding to the overall character of our team.”

Of her counterparts on NHS, VanNuil leads the diving team for Grand Haven. As senior captain, VanNuil demonstrated her character fighting through coaching changes and always keeping a positive attitude.

“She has had a tremendous four years of diving,” Thorne said. “She has seen three different coaches in her four years and she has stuck with it, that says a lot about her.”

Benson, a second-year captain of the swim team, also has set a prime example for her teammates as the primary backstroker for the Bucs and a marvel in the classroom, qualifying for the NHS. Both Benson and VanNuil plan to attend Grand Valley State University to pursue degrees in nursing.

“She is just the epitome of hard work, Thorne said. “A high-quality kid.”

Morgan joins VanNuil in the deep end of the pool. Her three years of diving have been plagued with injuries, but she is always pushing to get back on the boards. She plans on attending Western Michigan University to study photography.

“She has been battling knee injuries her whole career, and has been in and out of the water this season,” Thorne said. “I’m very proud of her for not giving up.”

Kramer and LaCourse both served the team for a full four years, plugging into wherever they were needed, and always dedicated to the success and identity of the team.

“Lacourse, if there was ever someone that really shaped their identity with the team, it was her,” Thorne said. “Kramer is another that has been around for four years, and is a utility swimmers that can do anything she is asked to do.”

Kramer is undecided for her future plans but is considering Colorado College, Michigan State and Northern Michigan, while LaCourse will attend Muskegon Community College.

Finally, Clarissa Cherry rounds out the Grand Haven aquatic senior class. A third-year swimmer specializing in sprint freestyle, Cherry is in the midst of her best season yet, and is looking to peak at the perfect moment. After high school, she is weighing traditional college or a career in the military.

“Cherry is a really nice young lady definitely coming into her own as a senior,” Thorne said. “We are very excited for her last two weeks.”

The seven senior Bucs will look to lead their young, talented team to a high finish at the O-K Red Championship meet on Nov. 3-4, propelling them to a competitive showing at the Division 1 state meet come Nov. 16-17.

“We are ready to get out of the work zone and change gears to start resting and swimming fast,” Thorne said. “We are sitting in fourth in the conference, hoping to sneak up and beat Hudsonville for third.

“When it is all said and done, we will have a lot of kids qualified for state. We are excited for the kids and for a fun end to the season.”

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