When the Lady Rams’ swimming and diving team take the deck, one thing is immediately apparent: this team has depth. With 48 swimmers and seven divers, the talent pool is large—and young. Thirty-three of the 55-team roster are freshmen and sophomores who are stepping up under their senior leadership and contributing in big ways.
Led by head coach Tom Parks, B team Coach Kevin Brown, diving coach Marc VanDyken, assistant coach Abby Schuyten, and team captains Jessica Cutler, Erica Cutler, Ashley Gremel and Taylor Hutson, the Rockford girls swimming and diving team kicked off their season Saturday, Sept. 12, with the A team heading to West Michigan Relays at East Kentwood and the B team competing in the Birds of Prey Relays at Union High School. The girls swam well, despite their intense training and conditioning in the weeks prior to their first meet. The A team took second place at West Michigan Relays, outperforming swimming rivals Holland, West Ottawa and Jenison. The East Grand Rapids Pioneers took first place. Rockford’s B team finished fifth at Birds of Prey, with Coach Brown noting he was “very pleased with his swimmers’ progress and performance. Every girl achieved a personal best time in at least one event.”
The Rams hosted their first dual meet on Tuesday, Sept. 15, against Zeeland, winning easily with 107.5 to 76.5 points. The meet opened with the Lady Rams going first-second-fourth in the 200 individual medley (IM), with the winning relay of Wolfer, Romain, E. Cutler and Van Portfliet swimming a Division I state-qualifying time of 1:55.08.
Zeeland came on strong with a series of first places (taking six out of 12 events), but the Rams’ depth was no match in the long run. Sarah Smith took second in the 200-yard free with a state-qualifying time of 2:01.24, and J. Cutler took second in the 200 IM with a state-qualifying time of 2:14.48. The Rams took first and second in the 50-yard freestyle, with Van Portfliet swimming 26.12 followed closely by Wolfer with 26.45. E. Cutler followed her twin sister’s state-qualifying lead with a quick 59.84 in the 100-yard butterfly, just missing a new pool record. Alaina Smith, also with an identical twin sister on the team, took third with a 1:03.03.
The Lady Rams went first-second-third in the 100-yard freestyle, with Van Portfliet leading the pack with 58.01, followed by Girard with 58.39, and Longberg with 58.51. J. Cutler (5:26.26) and Sarah Smith (5:27.75) went first and second in the 500 freestyle to build the lead. A fifth state-qualifying time came with the 200-yard free relay of A. Smith, S. Smith, J. Cutler, and Van Portfliet (1:45.06), followed closely by the Rams team of Hutson, Nauta, Girard and Caster (1:47.93).
Zeeland was no match for Rockford in the 100-yard back, with Wolfer leading the pack with a state-qualifying time of 1:03.55. Longberg took second with 1.04.02 and Downs third with 1.07.23.
The Rams concluded the meet with their final state-qualifying 400 free relay of S. Smith, A. Smith, J. Cutler, and Caster (3:49.37).
The Rams hosted a second dual meet on Thursday, Sept. 17, against the East Kentwood Falcons, winning easily and taking seven out of 12 first places and plenty of opportunities for swimmers to rest and swim alternative races. The Rams went first-second in the opening 200 medley relay, with first going to the state-qualifying team of Wolfer, J. Cutler, E. Cutler and Van Portfliet (1:57.07). Second place went to Downs, Romain, A. Smith and Rollins with 2:01.74.
Nauta (2:06.93) and Longberg (2.07.22) went first-second in the 200 free, and freshman Kristen Schnelle (2:32.38), senior Ashley Gremel (2.33.73), and junior Kristen Long (2.36.36) taking second, third and fourth in the 200 individual medley. Senior Ali Wilburn rounded out the first half of the meet with first place in the 50 free (27.25). Rams divers Katie Dehaan and Erica Finlayson took second and third respectively with 190.80 and 182.45 points in the one-meter/six-round competition.
The Lady Rams resumed the second half of the meet with a first- through fourth-place domination in the 100-yard butterfly, led by J. Cutler, followed by A. Smith, Caster and Wolfer respectively. Freshman Adrianna Craft went stroke for stroke with Falcon Sara Boldt for 500 yards (20 laps), touching her out with 5:39.11 for first place. Taylor Downs and Emily Williams earned their varsity letter in the 500 with third- and fourth-place finishes.
The Rams’ 200-yard freestyle relay team of Tinkham, Venman, Gremel and Erika Schnell took second with 1:57.96. The meet concluded with E. Culter and Long taking first and second in the 100-yard backstroke, and K. Schnelle, Ouellette and Gremel going second, third and fourth in the 100 breast.
The Rams held their fourth meet of the week on Saturday, Sept. 19, at home, taking on Grand Rapids Christian and Hudsonville. Rockford came out on top, defeating Hudsonville 160-124 and Grand Rapids Christian 202-69. Both Rockford and Hudsonville took six first-place finishes out of 12 events.
The Rams went two-three in the opening 200-yard medley relay with Wolfer, Lipe, E. Cutler and Girard (1:56.52) and Longberg, Romain, Downs and Wilburn (2:01.33), followed by first-, second- and third-place finishes in the 200-yard freestyle with J. Cutler (2:03.04), A. Smith (2:05.99) and Nauta (2:07.64).
S. Smith went out in a quick Division I state-qualifying time of 2:17.03 to win the 200-yard IM, and Wolfer (926.53) and Girard (27.17) combined to go second and third in the 50-yard freestyle.
The Rams divers impressed the crowd and continued to show improvement, placing second, third and fourth with DeHaan (208.20), Finlayson (187.55) and DeGraaf (172.85) respectively.
Rockford’s two pairs of identical twins continued to confuse the crowd in the 100-yard butterfly when E. Cutler took first, followed closely by A. Smith with 1:03.09. Sister J. Cutler took first in the 500-yard freestyle with 5:30.25. Both Smith twins teamed up with J. Cutler and Caster to win the 200-yard freestyle relay (1:46.34), with the Rams team of Wilburn, Nauta, Hutson and Tinkham taking second (1:50.47).
Lipe and Romain went first-second in the 100-yard breaststroke with 1:14.29 and 1:15.92 respectively. The meet concluded with the Lady Rams taking second and third in the 400-yard free relay with S. Smith, A. Smith, Wolfer, J. Cutler (state-qualifying time of 3:50.47) and Caster, E. Cutler, Girard and Longberg (3:58.66).
The Rams head to Grandville to take on the Bull Dogs on Thursday, Sept. 24 at 6:30 p.m., then on to the Forest Hills Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 26.