Big meet, bigger picture

Duncan MacLean • Sep 28, 2018 at 12:30 AM

GRAND HAVEN TWP. — Good competition can bring the best out of dedicated athletes, along with their parents and coaches.

Thursday’s Bucs Pride Night at the Grand Haven Aquatic Center was a prime example of that, as two O-K Red Conference rivals met for what promised to be a tightly contested meet, but still took the time to focus on the bigger picture.

Midway through the meet, with the teams separated by just nine points, both the Grand Haven and Hudsonville teams lined the edges of the pool and took a moment for each swimmer to recognize who they were competing for as part of Bucs Pride Night. 

With close to 50 girls on each roster, the power of the moment was immense, as some named people present in the crowd, on the pool deck or merely in their hearts and memories who have been affected by cancer.

“The atmosphere in here was great tonight,” said Grand Haven head coach Doug Thorne. “I’m thankful that Hudsonville was able to participate with us. It shows a lot of camaraderie. Even though everyone knows it is going to be a close meet, at the same time it's great we can all take a look at the big picture and see that there is something bigger here tonight than a swim meet.

“Swimming for Bucs Pride and understanding that we all have loved ones that have touched us and made us better people for it, we need to be grateful for that.”

The meet resumed with the Eagles in front, but barely. To that point, the Bucs had stuck around thanks to some impressive depth through the first half of the meet. The Bucs ran out of steam down the stretch, eventually falling by a final score of 167-148.

“We swam OK,” Thorne said. “It was a fun and exciting meet. We know it would be close going in, Hudsonville was just a bit deeper than us and that is OK. Our kids came to swim and that’s all I can ask for as a coach.

“Breaststroke is our weak link right now. We have to move our lineup around a bit to try and plug some holes in that event. But, that is the one area that we really did improve in tonight. So I’m pleased with that. Lots of good swims today.”

Hudsonville took a 13-5 lead right off the bat with a first and third-place finish in the 200-yard medley relay. The Bucs second-place team of Mary Violet Springer, Kathryn Ackerman, Alonna Clark and Annah Taylor clocked in at 1 minute, 52.05 seconds.

The Eagle’s standout Clare Tuttle made it two in a row for the visitors with a win in the 200 freestyle, but Ocean Veldhouse (2:01.57) and Clark (2:04.85) made up some ground with a point-favoring second- and third-place finish.

Ackerman then secured the Bucs their first win of the evening in the 200 IM, clocking in at 2:04.72. Georgia Basil cemented the point swing, taking second in 2:18.35.

Taylor (26.10) and Springer (26.14) finished 2-3 in the 50 freestyle to keep things close heading into the diving break.

Grand Haven finished 2-4 on the 1-meter board with Natalie Koetsier leading the way, scoring 182.60 points. Clare Duplissis followed in third at 157.40, ahead of Kirsten Dykstra in fourth at 150.15.

The Bucs were outmatched through the back half of the meet as Hudsonville brought their best effort event after event.

Clark and Veldhouse put up runner-up performances in the 100 butterfly (1:03.74) and freestyle (55.02), before Georgia Basil returned the Bucs to first place with a win in the 500 freestyle with a time of 5:27.38.

Grand Haven’s 200 freestyle relay of Veldhouse, Springer, Basil and Taylor gave themselves a slim lead heading into the final leg, but a stellar swim by Hudsonville’s anchor quashed the uprising, relegating the Bucs to a second-place finish in 1:43.78.

Ackerman returned for the 100 breaststroke and a customary victory in 58.36 seconds and finished off her meet with a heart-filled performance in the 400 freestyle relay, reeling in a seven-second Hudsonville lead with a 52.23-second anchor leg. Veldhouse, Clark and Basil joined her in the win.

“Our girls should be tired right now,” Thorne said. “Everyone is training really hard at this point in the season so that’s going to happen. Overall, I’m pleased. The atmosphere was great in a close meet and that’s all I can ask for.”

The Bucs will enjoy Homecoming festivities over the weekend and return to their tough O-K Red slate next Thursday as they host East Kentwood.

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