Peel wins state title as SL swim team finishes third at D3 meet

Duncan MacLean • Mar 12, 2018 at 12:27 AM

SAGINAW — With just seven qualified swimmers, no one was expecting the Lakers to slide onto the podium at the conclusion of this weekend's Division 3 state finals at Saginaw Valley State University.

Determined to one-up their highest-ever finish from 2017, the Lakers took on this weekend's state meet gunning for fourth place.

As it turns out, even their own lofty goals weren't set high enough.

Spring Lake took home a third-place team finish with 201 points, just four points ahead of Cranbrook Kingswood. Holland Christian took the team title with 326.5 points, while East Grand Rapids finished second with 240.

"I didn't expect it, to be honest," said Spring Lake head coach Rob Peel. "It was a pretty awesome weekend. Almost everyone swam well across the board. The kids just stepped up. I love that these guys come here and expect to swim fast against the fastest people."

"Being fifth last year was crazy. We didn't think we would ever top that," said sprinting standout, Cam Peel. "The best part is getting that trophy. Only the top three teams get one, and to get it by four points is awesome. We couldn't have asked for a better way for Drew (Fogel), Will (Brown) and Garrett (Henning) to go out."

Junior standout Cam Peel led the way, winning Spring Lake's first individual title since 2012. After a personally disappointing third-place finish in the 50-yard freestyle at 20.87 seconds, the sensational sprinter rebounded in a big way to grab the 100-freestyle gold medal, with a new state-record time of 44.97.

"It feels great," Cam said of the title. "I've never been a state champion.

"To come in under 45 is pretty nice. I give a lot of credit to my teammates. Joey pushed me really hard in practice at the end of the season when I didn't want to go hard and our seniors this season were unbelievable.

"The circumstances leading up to the 50 weren't great. I literally ran up to the ready-room, so I think my heart rate was up a little early. It was still a good race, but I wasn't thrilled. I haven't had my front-end speed, but I definitely have had the second half of my 100. So, I went into the race with that mindset. I was confident if I could hold on through that first 50, I would have the legs to bring it home."

The state record didn't survive the meet, as Byron Center's Nolan Briggs led off their 400-freestyle relay in 44.79, snagging the record in the consolation finals and his final swim as a senior. Peel, Drew Fogel, K.J. Losee and Joey Wachter followed in the championship final, taking second place with a time of 3:07.58.

Not to be outdone by his Byron Center rival, Peel turned in a ballistic final split of 43.78. Becoming one of two swimmers across all three divisions to come in under 44 seconds.

"Props to Briggs, he had a great meet and snagged the state record from me," Peel said. "This Division 3 field has a lot of depth this year, it is crazy. It is a lot of fun swimming against competition like that, especially because a lot of them are my club teammates. It is super competitive. You almost want to beat them more because of that. It is great."

Peel also had a hand in the Lakers' runner-up finish in the 200-medley relay, as he joined Wachter, Will Brown and Losee to put together a 1:35.00 in finals and hold their No. 2 seed.

Losee took home a pair of fourth-place finishes in his individual events, coming in at 4:44.32 in the 500 freestyle and 1:43.04 in the 200 freestyle.

Senior Drew Fogel put together a stellar weekend, claiming personal records in every event he swam. He kicked things off with a fifth-place finish in the 200 individual medley with a school-record time of 1:57.13, then returned for the 500 freestyle, coming in just behind Losee at 4:45.19, good for fifth place.

Wachter put his mental fortitude on display with an impressive turnaround. The sophomore finished ninth in the 100 freestyle (48.06), adding time from his prelim swim. Later in the 100 backstroke, he rebounded for a fifth-place finish, dropping nearly a second from his prelim time and moving up a spot in the standings.

Finally, Brown finished off his high school career in style, winning the 100 breaststroke consolation finals for ninth place and dropping under the one-minute mark for the first time, clocking in a 59.94, to claim the Spring Lake varsity record.

The Lakers' 200 freestyle relay team was the only one outside into the championship final, as Sam Sella, Brown, Fogel and Garrett Henning finished 13th in 1:30.07.

A stellar day of competition at finals on Saturday locked up the Lakers' historic finish, but a tremendous effort at prelims put them in a position to succeed. After setting their sights on fourth, Fogel did some quick math following Friday's prelims.

"Fogel did the math Friday night and came up with us in third," coach Peel said. "I was like, ‘Woah, no way. Did you count diving?' He had."

"I just couldn't wait to get my hands on a trophy," Fogel said of the revelation. "To be third is amazing. As a senior, this was the best weekend of my life. To walk away with best times in every event and a trophy with our name on it is amazing."

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