The Spring Lake boys swim and dive team picked up a narrow O-K Greater Grand Rapids Swim Conference victory Tuesday night over Jenison, 98-88, thanks to a 1-2 finish in the 200-yard freestyle relay after a last-minute lineup shuffle.
The decisive win came following a tough 500 freestyle for the Lakers, who were outscored 12-4 in the event — all but erasing their 10-point lead. With depth dwindling in the backhalf of the meet, Spring Lake made a gutsy grab for points, splitting their A and B 200 freestyle relays to try and pick up a 1-2 punch over Jenison's A squad.
Charles Brown, Eric Geschiere, Ed Lidke and Sam Sella made up the A lineup; while Luke Zuelke, Collin Schock, Evan Schock and Cam Peel filled the B.
“I was hoping to win this one,” said Spring Lake head coach Rob Peel. “I didn’t score it out before, so I’m afraid I thought it would be easier. I realized halfway through, ‘Oh boy, we’re losing,’ so that was the reason to make the change.
“I felt like we needed to get first and second in that relay, so I mixed them up to give us a chance to do that. I knew we would get the win, but I wasn’t sure if we could get both.”
Through the first three legs of the relay the gamble was looking foolish, as Jenison’s anchor swimmer hit the water with a one-second lead over the A team (Brown, 23.8; Geschiere, 25.25; Lidke, 24.00) and a nearly three-second lead over the B (Zuelke, 25.14; C. Schock, 25.12; E. Schock, 25.52).
But, these Lakers love a good rundown. Sam Sella did the honors for the A relay, clocking his 50-freestyle split 23.23 to slide into second place with a time of 1:36.28, while Cam Peel ran the B team all the way into first place with an anchor-split of 20.35, good for a 1:36.13. Jenison followed in third at 1:36.68.
“I’ve never done that before. I’ve never felt like I needed to,” Peel said of the shuffle. “We might have squeaked it out without it, but it would have been a little too nerve-wracking. It couldn’t have gone better. I wasn’t sure Cam would be able to catch them all in the end, but that extra bit of pressure makes kids dig deeper. It makes it fun, and gives more guys a chance to be in a big-time situation like that.”
The 1-2 punch boosted the Lakers’ lead back to 12 points, high enough to hold off the Wildcats down the stretch as they won, but were outscored, in two of the final three races. Wachter took his second individual win in the 100 backstroke in 53.84, narrowly missing out on his own pool record. Jenison would take second, third, fourth and fifth to chip away at the lead.
It was a similar sight in the 100 breastroke, as Peel continued to shine no matter the discipline. The junior sprinter took top honors at 1:03.66, ahead of Wildcats in second, third and fourth. Collin Schock took fifth to pick up a single point to leave the Lakers up eight heading into the final event.
Barring catastrophe, Spring Lake had the win locked up. Losee, Evan Schock, Sella and Wachter won the 400 freestyle relay anyway, clocking in at 3:28.05 after a blistering final split from Wachter to retake the lead and secure the victory.
“I think we are used to winning events and then the rest of the other team’s depth catching us,” Peel said. “So, this was a little more fun. Everybody had a chance to race.”
Freshman Charles Brown made the most of his Tuesday-night outing, scoring crucial points in both his individual events and adding a solid breaststroke leg to the winning medley relay. He would finish his evening with a milestone, punching his first individual ticket to the state championship meet with a 56.80 in the 100 butterfly, just sliding in under the state cut of 56.89.
“Charles is really neat to watch because he works so hard,” Peel said. “Sometimes that hard work doesn’t pay off in the short run and that can get frustrating. He doesn’t get discouraged and just keeps improving. It’s really awesome to bring him to the state meet.”
Tuesday’s meet was tight throughout, as Jenison stayed relevant thanks to periodic holes in the Lakers’ speed.
Spring Lake caught a break off the bat, as the Wildcats’ 200 medley relay jumped an exchange to draw a disqualification in the opening race. The Lakers’ relay team of Wachter, Losee, Brown and Peel cashed in on the opportunity with a win in 1:39.72, while the B team of Connor Hallberg, Jake Fisher, Geschiere and Tyler Munch picked up two points in third place at 1:58.97.
A 10-4 lead wouldn’t last long for Spring Lake as Jenison struck back in the 200 freestyle with a 1-2-4 finish. Evan Schock took third for the Lakers in 2:00.12, while Luke Zuelke nabbed a point in fifth at 2:02.83, putting the Lakers behind, 14-16.
Brown then joined Losee in a 1-2 finish in the 200 IM to retake the lead for Spring Lake. Losee’s 2:00.48 took top-honors, while Brown’s 2:14.45 took second to edge the Lakers back ahead by two points.
Another 1-2 finish in the 50 freestyle put the Lakers up 10, as Peel won the event in 21.19, followed by Sella in second at 23.50. Geschiere (24.08) and Lidke (24.38) would pick up three total points for their fourth- and fifth-place finishes to contributed to the point-swing.
Johnny Meulenbelt led the divers with a third-place finish at 198.00 points, while Wit Miller followed in fifth at 160.65 to round out the Laker scoring. James Handrich (157.25), Alex Reichel (101.15) and Adam Polmanteer (107.60) posted season-best scores. The 1-2-4 finish for Jenison threw the meet back in the air, closing the Spring Lake lead to 40-38.
Spring Lake would pull away again through the 100 fly and 100 freestyle with Wachter winning the butterfly in 54.21, while Losee took the freestyle in 48.39, followed by Sella in third at 53.65.
A 1-2 Jenison finish in the 500 freestyle closed the gap yet again as Evan Schock took third in 5:29.93 and Geschiere fifth in 5:34.71, setting up the wild 200 freestyle relay.
“This is great. We’re still working hard,” Peel said. “It is easy to get discouraged in the middle of the year when you swim slow and the guys are pushing through. We’ve got a stretch of five meets in two weeks coming up, every Tuesday and Saturday which, will be tough.
“Come February, everyone will start to swim their events again and thinking about the end of the year.”
Spring Lake returns to action Saturday at the East Grand Rapids Invitational, joining Grand Haven in the fun at the Butch Briggs Natatorium.