Fall sports preview: Girls swimming

Duncan MacLean • Aug 22, 2018 at 11:37 PM

It is shaping up to be a quick fall in the pool for local swim teams this season, as both Grand Haven and Spring Lake return strong personnel between the lane lines.

The Bucs will be led by defending 200-yard IM state champion, state record holder and three-time All-American Kathryn Ackerman, and return plenty of talent to back up their superstar for a run at the state’s top 10.

The Lakers are interested in returning to the top of their game after a down season in 2017, with four returning state qualifiers and 20 underclassmen to fill out the lineup.

Let’s take a deeper dive into local swimming for 2018.

Grand Haven

Head coach: Doug Thorne, eighth year 

Last year: Third O-K Red Conference, 12th at Division 1 state meet

Key returners: Junior Kathryn Ackerman, seniors Annah Taylor, Anna Ackerman, Kirbey Colella and Brooke Zellman, juniors Alonna Clark and Jessica Boyer, sophomores Georgia Basil, Ocean Veldhouse, Maryviolet Springer and Ellyn Skodack

Kathryn Ackerman asserted herself as a historic talent last season, setting an All-Class record and Oakland University Natatorium record in her state championship 200 IM and taking home All-American honors in three individual events on the season. The now-junior was pivotal in Grand Haven’s highest state-meet finish ever with the help of a young, potent state team.

Every swimmer who scored at the 2017 state meet for Grand Haven is back, along with a few more qualifiers who didn’t quite crack finals. In all, the Bucs lost just one state qualifier from their best year to date last season.

Colella, Ackerman, Taylor and Clark return after breaking the Grand Haven school record in the 200-medley relay, finishing ninth overall, while Ackerman, Taylor, Clark and Veldhouse return with All-State honors for their eighth-place finish in last year’s 200-freestyle relay.

Conference outlook:

The Bucs took a customary third place in the O-K Red last season behind perennial powerhouses Rockford and West Ottawa, who finished fifth and eighth respectively at the Division 1 state meet. Grand Haven rarely has a shot at the Rams or Panthers, but with their depth and budding superstar, head coach Doug Thorne reckons 2018 could be their year.

“Grand Haven, as far as I know, has never had an opportunity to win the O-K Red in swimming. This could be the year,’” he said. “West Ottawa, Rockford and Hudsonville are all still very strong, but hopefully with our depth and the size of our team, we can do something special.

“It is by far the strongest swim conference from top to bottom in the state, and that will be no different. Besides Kathryn, our conference has two other state champions returning in Morgan Krause from Rockford, who won the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke last year, and Claire Tutle from Hudsonville who won the 100 breaststroke.

“It seems like a long way away, but conference and state will be upon us before we know it, and I’m already drooling at the possibilities of this team.”

Spring Lake

Head coach: Byron Kelly, first year

Last year: Eighth in Greater Grand Rapids Swim Conference

Key returners: Sara Mumby, Louise Vega, Ellie Hulverson and Zoe Komar

Spring Lake returns four state qualifiers from a year ago in Mumby, Vega, Hulverson and Komar, though none of them cracked the top eight at the state meet.

Hulverson and Mumby swam the final and fastest two legs on the Lakers’ 13th-place 200 freestyle relay and their 16th-place 400 freestyle relay. The pair also joined Vega in leading the 200-medley relay team to a 17th-place finish, just missing out on points at the big dance.

Hulverson also had some individual success, finishing 21st in the 200 IM and 22nd in the 100 freestyle to lead the returners. Mumby finished 33rd in the 50 freestyle and 36th in the 100.

These four returners make up the top end of Spring Lake’s 29-swimmer roster, which features a staggering 20 freshmen and sophomore representatives.

“Our returning state qualifiers will lead a very strong group of underclasswomen. Along with the state qualifiers, freshmen Leilia Kahler, Avery Flynn and Ellie Vega as well as sophomores Eve Geschiere, Rebecca Redeker and Sara Strauss, and junior Shalini Hayenga should make significant contributions this season.”

Conference outlook:

A tough season led by a strong diving team left the Lakers at the bottom of the highly competitive OK Greater Grand Rapids Swim Conference. Featuring powerhouse teams such as East Grand Rapids, Jenison, Forest Hills Northern/Eastern and Forest Hills Central, as well as Grand Rapids Christian, Grand Rapids Catholic Central and Northview, the OKGGRSC is a tough one to crack.

“Last year’s overall record was 1-8 and we finished in last place out of eight teams at the conference meet,” said first-year head coach Byron Kelly. “Our conference is one of the most competitive in the state, with many of the teams finishing in the top 5 of their division’s state meet.

“But, the outlook for this team is very high this year. With the experiences of the junior and seniors partnered with the strong freshmen and sophomore classes, I think the sky is the limit for these ladies. If they work hard, focus and swim the way I believe they can, I really feel that we will drastically improve our dual meet record as well as our place in the conference meet.”

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