Yard Bankers: Grand Haven girls swim team ready to cash in at the Division 1 state meet

Josh VanDyke • Nov 16, 2017 at 6:00 AM

GRAND HAVEN TWP. — Often times in life, you get what you pay for.

If that's the case, the Grand Haven girls swim team could be looking at an awfully big payday this weekend at the Division 1 state meet at Oakland University.

The Buccaneers have been putting plenty of "yards in the bank" this season, according to their head coach, Doug Thorne.

"This is a wonderful group. The 14 girls that are going to the state meet this weekend have earned that through their hard work this season," he said. "This group has been our primary point-getters throughout the season.

"We're coming off a tremendous performance at the conference meet two weeks ago, and it's a very exciting time for everybody involved. We have an opportunity to score some serious points at the Division 1 state meet, and that's always exciting."

The group is headlined by sophomore standout Kathryn Ackerman, who finished second in the 200-yard individual medley and fourth in the 500 freestyle at last year's state meet.

She enters this weekend's event seeded second in the 200 individual medley with a time of 2 minutes, 1.37 seconds, and fourth in the 100 butterfly event with a time of 56.38 seconds.

"We're looking forward to the state meet, because we've been working hard all season to get here, and now we get a chance to put all that hard work together and hopefully score some points at the state meet," said Ackerman.

After coming so close to an individual state title as a freshman, Ackerman is motivated to take the next step as a sophomore.

"I think the state meet can be a little overwhelming as a freshman," she added. "It can be stressful with so many good swimmers around you, but you just have to go out there and give it your all.

"It would be exciting (to win a state title), because I've put in a lot of hard work this season, so to see that pay off with a state championship would be amazing. It's definitely been a motivational factor for me this year, and I just want to continue to build on what I've already done so far."

Something that should help the Buccaneers this weekend is the already difficult conference schedule they've pushed through this fall.

"We have one of the hardest conferences in the state with teams like Rockford and West Ottawa, so that pushes us to perform against them whenever we swim against them," said Ackerman. "In a way, they make us better and prepare us for the state meet."

Also qualifying as individuals at the state meet for Grand Haven are: freshman Georgia Basil, who is seeded 25th in the 200 IM (2:12.41) and 20th in the 500 freestyle (5:11.10); and sophomore Alonna Clark, who is seeded 41st in the 200 IM with a time of 2:14.48.

"I think it helps that most of us made it to the state meet last year, because we know what we are doing this time around," said Clark. "We can just go out there and focus on swimming our best times and pushing ourselves."

Grand Haven also qualified their three relay teams with the 200-medley relay team of Ackerman, Clark, junior Kirbey Colella, junior Annah Taylor, freshman Ocean Veldhouse, freshman Mary Violet Springer, senior Katalin Kovach and junior Alex Bergman is seeded 21st with a qualifying time of 1:51.72.

The 200 freestyle relay team of Ackerman, Taylor, Clark, Veldhouse, Kovach, junior Brooke Zellman, junior Anna Ackerman and sophomore Jessica Boyer is seeded ninth with a qualifying time of 1:38.79.

The 400 freestyle relay team of Ackerman, Taylor, Clark, Veldhouse, Basil, Kovach, freshman Ellyn Skodack and senior Jenna Benson is seeded 18th with a qualifying time of 3:40.36.

"We just want to score as many points as we can," said Basil. "We'd like to get our relays in the top 8 and be All-State. I'd like to finish in the top 8 of my two events, so that's my big focus."

Thorne pointed to the team's O-K Red Conference meet performance as the turning point in the season.

"The conference meet was a really big event for us," he said. "It was at Rockford and the O-K Red Conference is easily one of the most competitive leagues out there, and we really competed well.

"It signified that these girls have worked hard all offseason and trained hard during the season for two big meets — the conference meet and the state meet. Two weeks ago, we had 48 girls at the conference meet, and these girls are the ones that were able to score points and meet those qualifying standards.

"It says a lot about them as athletes that they were able to accomplish those feats and now they're being rewarded for their hard work."

One constant for the team this year has been the performance of Ackerman, who has already emerged as a leader for the Bucs.

"Kathryn Ackerman is the leader of the team, and she's had an outstanding season this fall," Thorne continued. "She's got an opportunity to not only score some points, but maybe even win an event or two at the state meet. Our hopes are high that she will place really well individually. She's earned everything she's accomplished so far, and the sky is the limit as far as her potential as a swimmer."

With a team roster filled with underclassmen, Thorne is excited to see what the future holds for this program.

"The majority of the group is younger, so that's an exciting thing for me as the coach to see them continue to grow with each event they compete in," he said. "Georgia Basil had a great conference meet. She qualified in both the 200 IM and the 500 freestyle and has a chance to possibly score at the state meet as a freshman.

"That's going to be a tall task, but it's a possibility and she's a hard-working young lady. It says a lot about her work ethic and her personality that she's able to really hit the ground running in such a competitive field."

With an influx of talent, comes an influx of expectations. The pressure that accompanies those expectations could push the Grand Haven swimming program to new heights.

"It's a lot of pressure, but it's also very exciting," said Thorne. "As a coach, this is what you work so hard for. You want to get to the point where you have an opportunity with these kids to see them grow each year, and we've got progressively better each year.

"It's been a long time since Grand Haven has been this competitive as a team, and we have high hopes that we'll do well this weekend. We want to have kids standing on blocks on the second day. That would be awesome. The future of our program will be swimming in the pool this weekend, and we're excited to see them compete.

"This is the progression of a program, and I think these girls are ready to take that next step in the process."

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