Bucs, Lakers shine at conference meets

Duncan MacLean • Feb 25, 2019 at 12:16 AM

The swim and dive postseason kicked off in earnest this weekend with the always electric conference championship meets. The Grand Haven and Spring Lake boys teams capitalized on a long season of training, picking up new state cuts, conference medals, titles and records.

The Lakers took home five gold medals and three pool records en route to their third-place finish at the O-K Greater Grand Rapids meet with 291.5 points. East Grand Rapids took top honors at 445, ahead of Forest Hills with 409. Jenison finished fourth at 262, ahead of Grand Rapids Christian with 246, Northview at 202.5 and Grand Rapids Catholic Central with 154.

Grand Haven picked up one top-three finish at the O-K Red Conference Championships, finishing in third place overall with 291 points. West Ottawa took home the conference title with 543 points. Hudsonville followed with 451. East Kentwood took fourth at 273, ahead of Rockford at 236 and Grandville at 170.

Lauded Lakers

Spring Lake racked up a number of accolades, starting in the first individual event of the weekend, the 200-yard freestyle. Senior Cam Peel won the mid-distance race with a blazing time of 1 minute, 39.65 seconds, breaking the conference record, as well as the long-standing East Grand Rapids pool record, set in 1990.

K.J. Losee followed in the 200 IM, winning the event by over four seconds with a time of 1:57.20.

Joey Wachter grabbed his individual championship in the 100 backstroke, winning a race to the finish in 51.15, edging second place at 51.33.

The three teamed up to take down pool and conference records with winning efforts in both the freestyle relays. Wachter (21.42), Sam Sella (22.62), Losee (21.13) and Peel (20.10) turned in a new school-record time of 1:25.27 in the 200 freestyle relay, while Losee (47.38), Charles Brown (49.07), Wachter (45.98) and Peel (45.09) clocked in at 3:07.52 in the 400 freestyle relay.

“It was an awesome meet,” said Spring Lake head coach Rob Peel. “Almost across the board, everyone swam great. It was really exciting seeing the boys finish the way they did.

“The guys that have carried us all year swam great, setting all those records and Cam just swam fantastic in that 200 freestyle.”

Spring Lake took home a number of runner-up and top-eight finishes, as well. Their strongest event of the day was the 50 freestyle, as they placed three in the top-eight finishers.

Wachter took second place with a time of 21.09, followed by Eric Geschiere in sixth at 22.68 and Sella in eighth at 22.77.

Losee finished runner-up in the 100 butterfly with a time of 51.31, falling to the champ from Grand Rapids Christian at 50.25.

Peel took second in one of the most dramatic races of the weekend with a 100 freestyle time of 44.81. Forest Hills sprinter Henry Schutte took top honors with a blistering time of 44.27.

Finally, the Spring Lake 200 medley relay team finished in third as Collin Schock (26.47), Evan Schock (27.48), Brown (23.42) and Sella (22.06) turned in a time of 1:39.43.

Also scoring for Spring Lake in consolation finals were Brown in 10th of the 200 IM (2:07.01) and 11th in the 100 butterfly (56.59); Eric Geschiere in 11th of the 100 freestyle (50.14), ahead of Evan Schock in 15th (51.00), and Sella in 16th (51.34); Collin Schock in 10th of the 500 freestyle (5:19.03) and 13th in the 100 backstroke (59.81) and Evan Schock in 10th of the 100 breaststroke (1:05.04).

“We had some great surprise swims,” Peel said. “Collin Schock qualified in the 100 backstroke and Evan Schock qualified for the first time in the 100 breaststroke. Eric Geschiere is a senior and one of our captains. He qualified individually for the first time, which was awesome. Ed Lidke had a great meet, Joe Westhoff, a freshman, finished off some crazy time drops for someone in their first year of swimming. It was all impressive and cool to see.”

Johnny Muelenbelt led the Laker divers, qualifying for regionals with a 12th-place score of 310.60. Wit Miller followed finishing 15th, ahead of Mason Pomeroy in 24th, James Handrich in 16th and Adam Polmanteer in 27th.


See photos from Saturday’s finals

Buoyant Bucs

Grand Haven’s third-place conference finish was built with depth, as the Bucs placed multiple swimmers in the top-16 of every event.

Junior Carter Brown picked up their only individual medal, finishing third overall in the 100 backstroke with a time of 53.80, dropping over a second from his prelim time of 55.00 to move up from his fifth-place seed. Brown also cracked the top-eight in the 200 IM, finishing eighth at 2:05.72.

Senior sprinter Eli Vandenbrand put together a stellar meet, finishing fifth in the 200 freestyle with a time of 1:47.26 and sixth in the 100 freestyle at 49.06.

Michael Macdonald and Mark Wilgenburg handled the 50 freestyle, finishing in sixth and seventh place with times of 22.35 and 22.37. Wilgenburg followed up the performance with a seventh-place finish in the 100 butterfly at 54.79. MacDonald continued with an eighth-place showing in the 100 freestyle at 49.10.

Thomas MacDonald rounded out Grand Haven’s individual top-eight finishes with a seventh-place run through the 100 breaststroke, clocking in at 1:02.34.

“We had a great weekend. We saw some amazing swims,” said Grand Haven head coach Doug Thorne. “We had a really good taper, the kids swam really well. It is always hard when you don’t have everybody tapered, but everyone believed and bought into what we were doing all year and that makes a difference. To get to the conference meet with 45 guys on the same page makes this meet a lot of fun.”

Apart from their A-finalists, a slew of Grand Haven swimmers earned meaningful points in the consolation finals. Nick Wilson (1:52.93) and Caleb Reeves (1:53.26) took 13th and 14th in the 200 freestyle; Thomas MacDonald finished ninth in the 200 IM (2:04.60), followed by Colin Kelly in 13th (2:08.41) and Bryant Latchaw in 15th (2:10.81); Jackson Hamm took 12th in the 50 freestyle (22.90); Griffin Kelly ninth in the 100 butterfly (55.91); Zach Duer 15th in the 100 freestyle (51.65), ahead of Miles Evink in 16th (52.57); Reeves 10th in the 500 freestyle (5:08.63), ahead of Kelly in 11th (5:08.68) and Wilson in 12th (5:09.82); Aidan Latchaw 12th in the 100 backstroke (58.71), ahead of Ethan Ball in 16th at 59.75; Hamm 11th in the 100 breaststroke (1:04.79), ahead of Bryant Latchaw in 15th (1:05.60).

“Chris Akselburg swam out of his mind,” Thorne added. “It is amazing to see where he has come from four years ago. This weekend, he dropped 10 seconds off his 200 freestyle and another 10 off his 100 butterfly. That was huge for us and very fun to see.

The Bucs performed well in the relays, finishing fourth in both freestyle relays and fifth in the medley.

Brown (25.84), Hamm (28.66), Kelly (24.15) and Wilgenburg (21.56) took on the medley, finishing in 1:40.21, just behind East Kentwood at 1:40.04.

The 200 freestyle relay team of Michael MacDonald (22.64), Hamm (23.07), Vandenbrand (22.37) and Wilgenburg (22.67) clocked in at 1:30.75, before the 400 freestyle relay team of Colin Kelly (51.20), Ball (52.27), Michael MacDonald (48.88) and Vandenbrand (49.82) turned in a 3:22.17.

Grand Haven received a huge point boost in diving, as a trio of Bucs cracked scoring position and qualified to continue their season at regionals.

Louis Malott led the way in 10th with 330.75 points, moving up two spots at finals. Jared Tithof followed close behind, taking 11th with 299.45, ahead of Carter Jones-Hirr in 12th with a score of 297.45.

“It is nice, both for the program and the rising divers, to see so many guys make it through,” said Grand Haven diving coach Scott Klempel. “(Saturday) they just got out of their own way and just let I happen. Grand Haven hasn’t sent multiple boys to regionals in a while, so it feels real nice for us and the program.”

Now, those swimmers quick enough to have qualified for the state finals will begin to rest for the March 2-3 championship meet. Spring Lake will take on Division 3 at Oakland University, while Grand Haven will gather with Division 1 at Holland Aquatic Center.

Regional-qualifying divers have one more meet to navigate before the state meet, as they look to finish above the cut at the regional finals Feb.28. The Bucs will dive at East Kentwood, while the Lakers will return to East Grand Rapids.

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