Rockford 173, West Ottawa 142
By Denise Webb
Numerous times throughout the Rockford vs. West Ottawa swim/dive meet on February 4 at the Rams’ natatorium, fans had to rely on the touchpad results reflected on the scoreboard to determine who won the event. The finishes were often visibly difficult to determine, but the Rams pulled away with a 173 to 142 victory.
More often than not, the events were won by less than a second, and that’s exactly how the meet began.
The relay team of Derik Bothma, Alex Devries, Brian Ginebaugh and Josh Travis won the Rams’ first event—the 200-yard medley relay—by .51 seconds, finishing with an improved state qualifying time of 1:41.31. The third place finish was also captured by Rockford. Andrew Denhof, Ben Fredrickson, Jared Martella and Connor Thelen won by a mere .29 seconds (1:45.63). With this 1-3 finish, Rockford began the meet with a 13-5 lead.
Even though Rockford fell behind after Event 2 (200-yard freestyle) to the Panthers’ renowned freestyle strength, the Rams quickly recouped in Event 3. Rockford’s Brian Ginebaugh, Jeff Schmitt, Josh Travis and Jared Martella placed 1-2-5-6, respectively, in the 200-yard IM, earning 19 of the possible 29 event points. This event edged the Rams back into the lead, which was never relinquished again.
Senior diver Tyler Johnson received a Rockford standing ovation and an abundance of cheers from fans and teammates after defeating West Ottawa’s number one diver Jordan Welling in the diving portion of the meet (Event 5). Johnson was the last competitor in this event, so Rockford’s fate in the diving portion was on his shoulders. While stepping onto the diving board for his last dive of the evening, Johnson knew he had to earn more than 38 points to defeat Welling’s 230.10 score. Tension was high as Johnson proceeded to do his twists and turns to complete his inward one and a half dive. As Johnson entered the waters with little splash after what appeared to be an amazing dive, an eerie silence fell over Rockford’s natatorium as everyone immediately looked to the scoreboard for the judges’ results. When the score of 7.0-7.5-7.0 flashed on the screen, Rockford’s team and fans couldn’t contain their excitement. This dive not only placed Johnson in first, but earned him a personal best score of 240.20 points.
Overall, Rockford’s divers outperformed West Ottawa with a 1-3-4-5 finish by Johnson, LJ McCauley, Kurt Plaggemars and Noah Markel, respectively.
Even though Rockford was ahead after the diving portion of the meet with a score of 75 to 59, the meet winner was still undetermined.
From Event 6 through the end of the meet, the finishes continued to remain extremely close, but Rockford prevailed by winning five of the six events in total points.
Entering the twelfth and final event, the Rams had gained enough of a lead that the meet’s winner was determined at the conclusion of Event 11 after the amazing 1-3-4-6 finish by Brian Ginebaugh, Jared Martella, Daniel Newberger and Ian Rosloniec, respectively, in the 100-yard breaststroke.
Even though the meet ended with Rockford winning by more than 30 points, during any one event the score could have easily shifted, said assistant coach Dave McWatters. “One had to look beyond the score to see how competitive the meet was,” added McWatters.
“It was a real mix of guys who helped win the meet tonight. People who were supposed to win didn’t, and people who weren’t expected to win did. We all pulled together though and won. That’s true teamwork,” said Bryan Wasberg.
In an email composed shortly after the meet, head coach Tom Parks couldn’t have summed up the evening better, “Great meet, gentlemen!”