by DENISE WEBB
Twenty-three medals, six out of 12 first-place finishes, three state-qualifying times, several personal bests: all of these accomplishments helped bring home a first-place trophy for Rockford at the Freshman/Sophomore Swim/Dive Invitational on Saturday, Feb. 6 at the Grandville natatorium.
More than 160 freshman and sophomore swimmers and divers competed from nine West Michigan high schools at this invitational. Rockford placed first with 421 points, followed by Zeeland (343), Grandville (337), Hudsonville (256.5), Jenison (197), Holland West Ottawa (190), East Kentwood (136.5), Grand Haven (119) and Byron Center (100).
“This win was the first Rockford has had at this event in seven years. I don’t think there could’ve been another team that wanted a victory more than we did. Everyone stepped up and put forth everything that they had,” remarked sophomore Alex Savage, who improved by .59 in the 200-yard freestyle.
Sophomore Allyn Kinney commented, “Last year we came in second to Zeeland. I was pretty confident we would come out on top this year if we all swam the times we were supposed to. We had some amazing swimmers last year who are sophomores now, and we added some more really impressive freshmen. I think our team will just keep getting stronger.”
“There were awesome performances by everyone. We swam our hearts out,” said sophomore Eric Chisholm, who swam personal bests in both the 50-yard freestyle (22.37) and the 100-yard freestyle (51.26). He also helped teammates sophomores Josh Travis and Bryan Wasberg and freshman Nick Willison swim a state-qualifying time in the 200-yard medley relay (1:43.59).
Wasberg also swam a state-qualifying time in the 100-yard breaststroke (1:03.38).
“There were some really close and exciting races, not to mention fast!” said sophomore Jared Seifert.
One example of this was the 50-yard freestyle. Chisholm of Rockford and Sam Timmer of Grandville both swam extraordinary state-qualifying times as sophomores, 22.37 and 22.72, respectively. Rockford was the only school to secure three state-qualifying times. Timmer captured the only state time for Grandville, and Kyle Doss claimed one for Jenison in the 100-yard backstroke.
More than 85 percent of the Rams team improved their personal best times for this season. Rockford’s Corey Fase and Michael Staley both impressively cut more than five seconds off their 200-yard freestyle times. Grant Beach, Cody Brown and Justin Hulsebus chopped smaller amounts off their times for this same event.
In the 100-yard freestyle, Kyle Twardy slashed 5.18 seconds off his best time, and Josh Waldvogel and David Willet also swam personal bests. Andrew Bleeker improved by more than four seconds in the 100-yard butterfly. Nathan Napolillo continued to drop time from his 100-yard breaststroke.
Mike Baumgart had never competed in the 200-yard IM, but he did so “for the team” at this invitational in a point-earning time which helped edge the Rams up to their win.
Twenty-three medals were earned during this invitaional: Mike Arend (two), Trenten Babcock (three), Chisholm (four), Mac Finnie (one), diver Noah Markel (one), Daniel Newberger (one), Travis (four), Wasberg (four), and Willison (three). Medals were awarded to those who finished in the top eight of individual events or in the top three of relay events. Points were scored by the top 16 finishers in individual events and by the top nine (one placement per school) for relays.
Others who earned points for the team were Baumgart, diver Drew Cornelius, Scott Ginebaugh, Napolillo, Ben Pitts, Savage, Seifert and Harrison Webb.
Rockford’s coaching staff looks to this meet as a keen indication of how “healthy” its swim/dive team will be for the next few years. In light of the results, Coach Tom Parks is confident he has some outstanding years ahead with these exceptional young swimmers and divers.
“One reason why I felt we won this difficult meet was because we work so well as a team,” said sophomore Tom Burns. “No putdowns from anyone. Everyone was cheering for each other and encouraging each other to push themselves to their limit. The outcome of this meet definitely brought us closer together as teammates and friends.”
Medal winners for the Rams were:
• 200-yard medley relay—Chisholm, Travis, Wasberg, Willison (first place)
• 200-yard freestyle—Babcock (second); Arend (eighth)
• 200-yard IM—Wasberg (first); Willison (fourth)
• 50-yard freestyle—Chisholm (first)
• 1-meter diving—Markel (seventh)
• 100-yard butterfly—Travis (third); Babcock (fourth); Arend (seventh)
• 100-yard freestyle—Chisholm (first)
• 100-yard backstroke—Travis (second); Willison (fifth)
• 100-yard breaststroke—Wasberg (first); Newberger (fourth); Finnie (seventh)
• 400-yard freestyle relay—Babcock, Chisholm, Travis, Wasberg (first)
Come cheer on the Rams at home Thursday, Feb. 18 at 6:30 p.m. as they compete against East Kentwood.