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Bold beginning

Duncan MacLean • Aug 29, 2018 at 11:45 PM

GRAND HAVEN TWP. — When hosting a defending state champion in your season opener, a crow’s nest perspective is important.

The Grand Haven girls swim team busted out their telescopes and looked forward to a stellar season Wednesday, as the Buccaneers faced East Grand Rapids at home. Five event victories wasn't enough to overcome the Pioneers, as Grand Haven fell by a final score of 118-68 to the defending Division 2 state champs.

It wasn’t all wasted wake for the Bucs, as they earned three lanes at the Division 1 state finals in November and put a handful more within striking distance. Kathryn Ackerman picked up state cuts in her two individual events and was joined by Mary Violet Springer, Annah Taylor and Alonna Clark for a state–qualifying run through the 200-yard medley relay, proving there is much more to come for this team.

“I’m happy for our first meet, but we’ve got a lot of work to do,” said Grand Haven head coach Doug Thorne. “There is no better gauge than swimming against East Grand Rapids to see where you stand. With the conference we swim in, it is good to have some non-conference meets that are very competitive. It gives those kids that have been swimming all summer an opportunity to get up and race in the first meet of the year, and you can always tell the kids who haven’t."

Photo Gallery: Grand Haven swimming faces EGR

The season shoved off in high spirits as the first timed swim of the year produced a first-place finish and Division 1 state cut. The 200-yard medley relay team of Springer, Ackerman, Taylor and Clark got it done with a time of 1 minute, 51.13 seconds.

Grand Haven’s lead was brief, as the Pioneers piled on during the 200 freestyle and IM, picking up a 1-2-3 sweep in the latter. By the time the diving break rolled around, the Bucs were walking the gangplank, trailing by 20 points. 

“I thought we would have a shot tonight, but EGR reloaded again,” Thorne said. “It was a great start in the relay, but they picked up a few too many (points) in the 200 and IM. East is a program that just retools kids. They may not be as strong as usual this year, but they always have depth that comes out of the woodwork.

“I loaded the back of the lineup a little bit to try and stay close, but it wasn’t enough.”

The back half of the meet was strong for the Bucs, as they picked up four more individual victories. Ackerman kicked things off with a win in the 100 butterfly, claiming a state cut and casually breaking a Grand Haven Aquatic Center record with her time of 56.15 seconds. The previous record was set in 2007.

Ocean Veldhouse followed suit in the 100 freestyle, finishing first in a time of 55.51.

Georgia Basil took care of the 500 freestyle, outpacing the field to a 5:29.48 victory.

Finally, Ackerman made it 2-for-2 on the day, winning the 100 breaststroke with a state-qualifying time of 1:07.22

Also turning in strong performances for the Bucs were Springer with a runner-up finish in the 100 backstroke (1:02.67); Natalie Koetsier with a third-place finish in 1-meter diving (189.53); the 200 free relay team of Brooke Zellman, Taylor, Veldhouse and Clark finishing runner-up (1:43.61); and the 400 free relay team of Basil, Veldhouse, Springer and Ackerman claiming second place (3:46.10)

“It was a nice first meet," Thorne added. "We got the medley relay cut and were close in a few more. Veldhouse in the 100 free, Springer in the backstroke, both the 200 free relay without Kathryn on it and the 400 free relay with Kathryn coming straight out of the breaststroke were real close to state cuts.

“I’m not worried about the relays. We will get those done early. Now, the kids are getting back to school and getting in that mode. We need to get back into the training routine and put the hammer down. We’ve got some work to do with 56 girls on the team we have to get into shape before our conference schedule.”

The Bucs have a few more non-conference tune-ups ahead of them to provide some cushion before the O-K Red season. They will return to the pool for the fun-filled West Michigan Relay meet Sept. 8 before tri-meets at Zeeland and at home, followed by an away meet at Holland. Rockford kicks off the meat of the season Sept. 20.

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