Rockford fought through a week of illness and some stiff competition to claim its sixth consecutive district water polo title Saturday, Oct. 24 at the Rockford High School pool. The Rams have not lost a game in a district championship tournament since the format was adopted in 2004. The boys now move on to the West Region tournament at East Kentwood, where they’ll work to qualify for the state championship tournament. “This was the toughest competition we’ve ever seen in the district tournament,” noted Coach Dave McWatters. “I salute the tough teams in our district—they came ready to play. And I congratulate the 2009 Rams for fighting through adversity and bringing Rockford another district trophy.” Rockford’s first opponent of the tournament was East Kentwood, who came in ranked number one in the state. Rockford’s swarming defense disrupted the Falcon attack, and the Rams built a 5-1 halftime lead. East Kentwood stormed back in the second half, but Rockford managed just enough offense to hang on for a 7-6 victory. Rockford’s defense made the difference with 28 steals in the game, including five by goalie Pat Fase, and four each by seniors Tyler Manikowski and Derik Bothma. Bothma led the team in scoring with four goals. The Rams then faced the number-one seed in the tournament and the number-five team in the state, the Grandville Bulldogs. Rockford and Grandville shared the OK conference title this year, so there was a little extra energy in the pool for this match. Grandville’s defense seemed to have Rockford out of sync for “It feels great to keep Rockford’s streak of district championships alive,” said a smiling Peterson. “I’m proud of the effort our entire team put forth. The tough teams we played made this weekend a real challenge. But even when we were down against Grandville, we fought back and won by working together as a team.”
October 29 2009
Swim/dive meets don’t get any closer than the October 22 battle between conference favorite West Ottawa and the formidable Rockford Rams. To set the stage, both teams are packed with depth and speed. It’s the final home meet for the Lady Rams, complete with Senior Night ceremonies, the Rockford High School chamber singers serving up an A+ rendering of the “National Anthem,” and then the deafening roar of the crowd. On paper, the Rams are the underdogs. What remains to be seen is what happens in the water. The meet begins with Rockford taking second and third in the 200 medley relay. Things are looking good for the Lady Rams, with Casey Wolfer, Morgan Lipe, Erica Cutler and Taylor Hutson going a quick 1:55.44, followed by teammates Morgan Longberg, Rachael Romain, Taylor Downs and Kennedy Cutler with a 1:58.25. Race one was victory for the Rams. West Ottawa was not daunted, and came back with first-, second- and fourth-place finishes in the 200-yard free. Sarah Smith (2:01.94) took third just .08 behind second place, and her twin Alaina Smith took fifth with 2:04.26. Lexy Caster and Holly Nauta went sixth and seventh respectively. The score advantage went to West Ottawa. In the third event, the Rams went first, fourth and sixth (Jessica Cutler, Romain, Lipe), with a neck-and-neck finish for third and fourth place. West Ottawa was beginning to gain momentum, and the first half of the meet, as Head Coach Tom Parks remarked afterward, “was not how we had hoped. We stumbled a bit—we had some illness, but so did they.” The 50 freestyle—the last race before diving—is always quick and always a nail biter. Sophomore Wolfer swam tough with a fast 25.62, just getting tapped out for first by West Ottawa’s Amanda Teske. The Rams’ Jamie VanPortfliet and Lauren Girard took fourth and fifth. The Rams’ divers literally put the bounce back in the swimmers for the second half of the meet, going second, third, fourth and fifth, with Erica Finlayson (202.50), Katie DeHaan (180.20), Macie DeGraaf (165.80) and Rita Synder (153.10) all scoring. For those in the crowd keeping a running score, the divers put the Rams back in the meet, and there was plenty of swimming to go. The sixth event, […]
Chris Van Slooten, a 1988 Rockford graduate, is a high school history teacher and swim coach. He was invited by the World Counsel of Swim Coaches Association to give a lecture at their September conference in Jacksonville, Fla. on how to build a successful inner-city high school swim program. Van Slooten has been swimming since he was in middle school, and has coached beginners age group as well as high school for the past 20 years. He has coached four All Americans, 12 All States, and 12 All Conferences while coaching at Northview High School, Grand Haven High School, and Covenant in Charlottesville, Va. He is currently teaching history and coaching at Holmes High School in San Antonio, Texas, where he lives with his wife Katie and two children, Ella and Dawson. Van Slooten has been invited to return and speak at next year’s conference, which will be held in Indianapolis, Ind.
For an unprecedented 15th straight year, Rockford’s boys cross country team captured the OK Red crown as conference champions last Thursday at the campus of East Kentwood High School. “We expect to challenge for the OK Red crown every year. Our boys know, coming in, that we have to be at our very best to continue the streak. Today, our guys took on the challenge of a tough muddy course and some quality competition, and they didn’t disappoint me or themselves,” commented Coach Andrew Martin, who has guided the Rams as head coach for the past three seasons. The Rockford boys team was led by senior Grant Gunneson, who was third overall in the race with a time of 16:51. He was followed by fellow senior Drake Veitenheimer (fourth, 16:59), junior Spencer Gerber (fifth, 17:07), senior Nick Shear (eighth, 17:11), and junior Devon Liu (12th, 17:22). All five scoring runners for Rockford were awarded All Conference medals for their performances. In the junior varsity race, Rockford showed that the cupboard will not be bare next year as the Rams swept the first five places, earning them a perfect score of 15 in JV team competition. The Rams were paced by Jake Naessens (17:47), who easily outdistanced the field to finish in first place. Naessens was followed across the finish line by Evan Bruin (17:54), Brett Johnson (17:58), Connor Jewell (17:58) and Taylor Swihart (18:01), a spread of only 14 seconds from first to fifth place. Coach Martin said, “I was apparently more nervous than the boys, as our JV guys ran excellent today. For many of these guys, this was their last race of the season, and it is always great to go out with big performances.” Rockford will be in action this Saturday, Oct. 31, at Carson City for the MHSAA Division I regional action. The top three teams and the top 15 individuals advance to the state finals at Michigan International Speedway on Nov. 7.
The Rockford Lady Rams cross country team completed a perfect OK Red season by winning the conference championship race with a score of 45 points to defeat host East Kentwood at 50, Grand Haven 60, Grandville 75, Jenison 141, Hudsonville 153, West Ottawa 207 and Muskegon at 223. “Our seniors were conference champs their freshman year and it has taken us until their senior year to get it back, so it is a nice way to send them off,” stated Coach Watson of the championship effort. The Lady Rams used their team depth to distance themselves from the competition by claiming four All Conference positions and two Honorable Mention All Conference positions. “We really have a very deep team this season and, though our best girl finished third, our final point scorer was 13th,” said Coach Watson. Jane Hawks and Taylor Manett led the Rams’ effort by placing third and sixth respectively. The next three Lady Rams, Sam Anderson, Katie Carlson and Sawyer Rocheleau, sealed the victory by packing together in 11th, 12th and 13th places respectively. Senior Megan Knape—filling in for Catie Rietsema, who sat out due to a sore ankle—claimed 18th place, earning Honorable Mention honors. Allison Hazy rounded out the placing with a 43rd-place finish. “After our top three, we were behind East Kentwood by nine points, but our fourth and fifth outdistanced their girls by 14 points, giving us the championship. It takes a whole team to get the job done, and that is how we competed today, as a team,” said Coach Watson. The Lady Rams will now take their number-one state ranking with them to the regional championship Saturday, Oct. 31, at Carson City, where they will meet up with returning state champions Traverse City Central, who is currently ranked number three. Racing will begin for Rockford’s Lady Rams at 2:00 p.m. with the men’s team competing at 3:00 p.m.