The Lakers’ cannons bore more firepower in this edition of the historic rivalry, but the Bucs had more guns, as they took a depth over speed victory by a final score of 103-83.
Spring Lake’s high-caliber trio of Cam Peel, K.J. Losee and Joey Wachter were effective as they won six individual events in all and paced a sweep in the relay events to keep the Lakers afloat.
Grand Haven’s depth won the day, however, despite winning just three events. Mark Wilgenburg, Thomas MacDonald and Louis Mallott did the honors, while their teammates picked up a slew of second-, third- and fourth-place finishes behind the speedy Lakers to slowly pull away over the course of the meet.
“The topic at practice this week has been about commitment to the team and accepting the fact that we are going to win meets this year by being a team,” said Grand Haven head coach Doug Thorne. “We don’t have the first-place swims. We just have to nickel and dime our way through a meet.
“Spring Lake has three stars that any coach would drool over. They are just flat-out fast. Tonight was a great example to show our kids that we can win as a team. We got help from all of the classes. That is how we are going to survive.”
With nine first-place finishes locked up, the Lakers just needed a few breaks to go their way to give the Bucs a real run for their money.
“We talked about depth the last few days and how it was going to be thirds and fourths that would really count,” said Spring Lake head coach Rob Peel. “Grand Haven swam great in every event, so that made it tough. Our kids swam great, but were a little worn out. We lost on those third and fourth places.
“It does make for great experience for our younger guys. Against Grand Haven, there is always someone there to race against. I’m proud of them for competing well.”
The dueling style of each team highlighted the typical balance of this rivalry in the pool with the Bucs bringing numbers and the Lakers talent.
“There is a special respect level in this rivalry,” Thorne said. “It is a kind of tough situation for us because we are supposed to win these meets because we are the bigger school, but anyone who knows swimming knows that Spring Lake has a long tradition of excellence in the pool. I coached in their conference down at South Haven for a while, and as long as I can remember, they have had a great team.”
“Grand Haven and Spring Lake have been swimming against each other for probably 50 years,” Peel said. “To my knowledge, Spring Lake has won only three times. Historically, Grand Haven is a great program and they have so much depth now it makes it hard for us. But, we made it interesting. The kids swam hard like they always do for this meet.”
The night began with some trademark Laker speed, as Cam Peel pulled off a comeback win on the freestyle leg of the 200-yard medley relay, splitting 20.24 seconds to finish off a 1 minute, 41.07-second effort by Wachter, Evan Schock and Charles Brown.
Grand Haven’s depth gave them an immediate lead, as the team of Carter Brown, Thomas Macdonald, Mark Wilgenburg and Jack Timmer clocked in at 1:43.36 for second place ahead of their B relay of Ethan Ball, Bryant Latchaw, Griffin Kelly and Colin Kelly in third.
Losee made his debut in the 200 freestyle, breaking a pool record with his 1:43.99 victory. Eli Vandenbrand (1:51.61), Nick Wilson (1:56.73) and Miles Evink (1:57.90) then nabbed the point share with a 2,3,4 finish, setting up a pattern for the evening.
The 200 IM played out the same, with Peel winning in 1:59.52 ahead of Grand Haven’s Thomas MacDonald (2:11.70), Carter Brown (2:16.28) and Ethan Ball (2:18.48).
Peel’s win in the 200 IM meant he was out of his signature event, giving the Bucs a chance to sprint to their first win of the day. Wilgenburg did the honors in 22.59, just ahead of Michael MacDonald who slid into second place at 22.65 for a huge Bucs point-swing.
The Bucs continued to pour it on as the meet moved to the diving well, as Mallott put together a 214.20-point showing to take down Spring Lake’s Johnny Meulenbelt (197.65) for the top spot. Carter Jones-Hirr (180.10) took third for Grand Haven, ahead of Wit Miller (177.35) in fourth for Spring Lake.
With the deficit growing rapidly, Spring Lake needed a few miracles in the back half of the meet, but Grand Haven was persistent as the tides.
Losee returned for a win in the 100 butterfly, clocking in at 51.82, missing out on another pool record by just 0.02 second, but Wilgenburg and Colin Kelly maintained the Bucs’ lead with second- (57.59) and third- (59.42) place finishes.
Short sprint or long distance, it was the same story. Wachter took the 100 freestyle (48.15), ahead of Michael MacDonald in second (49.91) and Vandenbrand in third (50.04), while Peel took the 500 freestyle (4:50.99) trailed by Nick Wilson (5:26.06), Griffin Kelly (5:29.56) and Ball (5:31.03).
The 200 freestyle relay again saw a last-leg Laker comeback, this time at the hands of Losee who anchored for Brown, Sella and Geschiere in 21.08 for a total time of 1:33.75. Grand Haven’s team of Colin Kelly, Griffin Kelly, Wilgenburg and Vandebrand followed in 1:34.21, ahead of their B relay in third.
Wachter then grabbed another win in the 100 backstroke (54.00) with Carter Brown in second (57.45), Aiden Latchaw in third (1:02.69) and Jake Klahorst in fourth (1:02.90).
Grand Haven flipped the script for good measure in the final individual event as Thomas MacDonald took home a win in the 100 breaststroke (1:06.21), ahead of teammates Colin Kelly in second (1:09.12) and Spring Lake’s Schock in third at (1:09.45).
Finally, with the meet out of reach, the Lakers picked up a huge win in the 400 freestyle relay as Losee, Sella, Wachter and Peel turned in a 3:19.18 to best the Bucs 3:33.40 from Wilson, Ball, Michael MacDonald and Vandenbrand.
Both teams will now settle in for their toughest training sessions of the season over Christmas break before returning better than ever for meets in the new year.