The 2019 Senior Night celebration was the final home meet for 15 members of the Grand Haven boys swim and dive team, marking it as one of the largest departures to date. All 15 outgoing swimmers made their mark on the 180-117 defeat of the Eagles.
Alex Plouff, Nick Garvale, Curtis Colvin, Zach Duer, Mark Nordin, Carson Wagasky, Jake Klahorst, Caleb Reeves, Aiden Latchaw, Griffin Kelly, Chris Akselberg, Jackson Hamm, Ethan Ball, Mark Wilgenburg and Eli Vandenbrand were described by Grand Haven head coach Doug Thorne as one of the closest classes he has ever coached, the biggest and best in Grand Haven swim history, and a shining example of what depth, leadership and commitment mean to a swim team.
“It is a group of kids that I feel like would run through a wall for me and this team,” he said. “They have been respectful since Day 1. They are committed. They know that when you join this team you aren’t committing to just yourself, but you are committing to be a part of a team, and that means a lot to this group of guys. They are truly in it for each other.
“You say goodbye to kids every year, but with a big class like this, it makes you wonder a little bit more about how we will be after they are gone. Will our numbers be hurting? How do we make up for all these guys we are losing?
“The depth of our team and the outcomes of our meets are in huge part from this class. They are our point-getters. Hopefully, they have taught the younger guys about wanting to get better and hard work and how to step into leadership roles like they did so well. They are a special group, and they will be missed.”
As for the meet, Grand Haven made short work of the visiting Falcons using the impressive depth of their senior class and a few event winners to leave no doubt.
“We swam OK,” Thorne said. “We placed very well. I was really pleased with our divers. They did well across the board down there. Thomas MacDonald had a big meet and all the seniors, in general, swam really well.
“It was a meet going into it I thought was much closer. It was pretty much over halfway through.”
The Bucs kicked things off with a win in the 200-yard medley relay as Carter Brown, Hamm, Kelly and Wilgenburg clocked in at 1 minute, 42.56 seconds for the four-stroke medley.
East Kentwood would respond with a win in the 200 freestyle, but Grand Haven took the point share with a 2-3 finish. Michael MacDonald took second in 1:49.64, ahead of Vandenbrand in third at 1:50.34. Reeves clocked in at 2:03.32, while Akselberg tried his hand at an exhibition run of the 200 IM, coming in at 2:23.94.
The Falcons went on to win the 200 IM, but a 2-5 finish by Thomas Macdonald (2:09.41), Colin Kelly (2:11.1), Brown (2:12.84) and Bryant Latchaw (2:18.87) built the Bucs lead even further.
Grand Haven returned to the tip of the podium in the 50 freestyle on the stroke of Wilgenburg, who took top honors in 22.72. Hamm took third in 23.61, ahead of Ball in fifth at 24.14. Nordin turned in a 25.82, ahead of Klahorst at 26.54, Garvale at 27.18 and Plouff at 27.84.
Louis Mallot staged a dramatic win on the diving boards to further the Bucs’ lead, overcoming the lead diver on his final attempt to rack up a score of 208.00.
Wilgenburg then returned to win the 100 butterfly, coming in at 56.63. Kelly clocked in at third in 58.68.
Michael MacDonald did the honors in the 100 freestyle claiming first in 49.87, just edging Vandenbrand at 49.89. Aiden Latchaw picked up a valuable point with a seventh-place finish in the event with a time of 53.92, while Akselberg came in at 56.08 for ninth place. Garvale turned in a season-best 1:00.20, while Colvin clocked in at 1:01.29, ahead of Plouff at 1:05.43.
Kelly then returned to the pool with just one event’s rest to swim the 500 freestyle, minutes after completing the 100 butterfly. He would muscle his way to a sixth-place finish at 5:28.42, behind Reeves in third at 5:25.84 and Nick Wilson in second at 5:22.89.
The 200 freestyle relay brought on another Grand Haven victory, this time by a pair of sophomores and a pair of seniors. Thomas MacDonald, Hamm, Michael MacDonald and Vandenbrand teamed up for a 1:33.01 run through of the relay, good for first place.
Carter Brown led the Bucs in the backstroke with a first-place finish in 56.11, followed by Ball in third at 59.56, Klahorst in fifth at 1:02.80 and Aiden Latchaw in sixth at 1:04.26.
Thomas MacDonald made his presence known Thursday with another win in the 200 breaststroke to close out the individual slate, coming in at 1:05.56. Hamm took fourth at 1:08.16, Wagasky at 1:11.64 and Colvin at 1:13.85.
Finally, the 400 freestyle relay team of Wilgenburg, Michael MacDonald, Brown and Vandenbrand took runner-up in the last event of the evening, coming in at 3:29.06.
The meet marks the end of Grand Haven’s home schedule, but there is still much left to achieve for this group of athletes.
“This is a group full of taper beasts,” Thorne said. “They have been dedicated to working hard this season and I am very excited to see it pay off as we get to the conference and state championship meets. It will be an exciting finale.”
The Bucs return to action Tuesday for a road meet at Ludington and will take on West Ottawa and Grandville before the O-K Red Conference Championship Feb. 21-22. The state meet will follow March 8-9 at the Holland Aquatic Center.