CLS wins big in Barry County, but both teams happy
by Brett Bremer
J-ad Sports Editor
It isn't very often that both teams are so excited after one beats another by more than 60 points. That can happen at the pool though, where competitors are racing themselves and the clock as much as their opposition at times.
The Caledonia-Lowell-South Christian (CLS) varsity boys' swimming and diving team improved its OK Rainbow Conference Tier II record to 3-0 with a 125-61 victory over the host Barry County Barracudas (the new name of the Delton Kellogg-Thornapple Kellogg-Hastings boys' program) at the Community Education and Recreation Center in Hastings Thursday.
Guys are pushing for school records, state cuts and personal records as hard as they're pushing for team victories. The CLS guys were clearly a step above the Barry County guys, winning all 12 events in the dual.
CLS senior Alexander Pollock set a new personal record by seven tenths of a second in winning the 100-yard breaststroke in 1 minute 1.28 seconds Thursday, finishing just a tenth of a second off the Division 1 State Meet qualifying time. He has already qualified for the state finals in the 50-yard freestyle, a race he won in 23.09 seconds Thursday.
He was one of four CLS guys to win two individual races. Fellow senior Emmet Schmehling won the 200-yard freestyle in 1:53.65 and the 500-yard freestyle in 5:14.90. Sophomore Zach Logan won the 100-yard freestyle for the Vikings in 50.91 before taking the 100-yard backstroke in 59.97. Junior Alexander Le won the 200-yard individual medley in 2:08.89 and added a winning time of 57.22 seconds in the 100-yard butterfly by out-touching Barry County's Sam Randall at the finish. Randall was the runner-up in an outstanding time of his own at 57.80.
CLS head coach Trenton Babcock was happy with how all of his guys swam Thursday, and was able to point to Le as an example of how his team's process oriented work is making guys faster all the time.
“We had a lot of guys show out tonight,” Babcock said. “Alex Le, a junior, he swam really well, got some PRs. He's been putting in the work, especially on streamlines and doing the little things right, like working on fast turns, working on improving in his technique for his backstroke. It showed in his IM and his butterfly down the stretch. We've been working on our finishes. He touched a guy out in our 100-fly that showed to me he has put in the requisite work, the time and effort.”
While CLS sophomore Ty Dykhouse was the runner-up to Pollock with a time of 24.30 in the 50-yard freestyle, one of the highlights of the night for the Barry County boys junior Jon Arnold's finish in the race. He was third in 24.87, the first Barracuda to finish the race in less than 25 seconds this season and a new personal record for Arnold.
“We have been so close the last few meets just hovering at like 25.0, 25.1, so I told them today, 'all right guys, today one of you goes under 25 or next week you all swim the butterfly,” new Barry County head coach DJ Cochran said. “So, they had the little bit of extra incentive.”
The rest of those freestyle sprinters for Barry County chasing that mark this season have been freshman Jack Kensington and junior Britton Stevens, who didn't compete in the 50 free Thursday.
“That has been something we randomly stumbled into,” Cochran said. “We call them our black cap gang, because they all wear just solid black caps. If you watch them swim they're all in a line with each other. The first meet of the season we were just trying to find events for some of the kids, because Jack is a freshman in there, Britton it is his first year back swimming after taking a year off playing basketball last year, and that first race they just went 1-2-3 right in a line with each other, so we have just been sticking with it. They're in a lane together every practice, so the three of them are just constantly pushing each other. They've been betting back and forth who is going to take that top spot.”
Having guys like Pollock and Dykhouse to chase certainly helped Arnold Thursday too.
Pollock and Dykhouse led off CLS's victory in the 200-yard medley relay to open the night. They joined Ethan Arendsen and Logan for a time of 1:42.33 in the race.
That first event followed a moment of silence for Thornapple Kellogg junior Lydia Cole, who lost her months long battle with cancer just after midnight Thursday morning. Cole was a member of the Delton Kellogg-Thornapple Kellogg-Hastings varsity girls' swimming and diving team for three years. A few of her teammates were on hand, taking their usual place helping out on the bulkhead, wearing their purple Team Lydia shirts that were a part of the girls' program's annual cancer awareness meet in the fall.
CLS guys went on to win all three relay races. Schmehling, Logan, Mason Stanley and Zach Burghgraef won the 200-yard freestyle relay in 1:37.52 and the team of Le, Burghgraef, Arendsen and Pollock won the 400-yard freestyle relay in 3:35.91.
CLS senior Logan Morse won the diving competition with 189.35 points, with Barry County junior Gram Price second with a score of 179.40. Barry County had the second, third and fourth place finishers in the event, with junior Blake Sheldon less than half a point behind Price in third place.
“I'm happy with it,” Babcock said of his team's progress so far this winter. “Our team is doing pretty well this year. Honestly, they're working hard. They come in every day and put in the work. We have been working on being process oriented, working on process-based goals like getting better at being good in practice, focusing on certain technique things in practice and then focusing on what we can control at meets. I think it has been paying dividends and the kids are buying in.”
Babcock is in his second season leading the CLS program. The boys are the defending Tier II champions.
Cochran is a first-year head coach, but is no newcomer to the league. He spent the past couple seasons as an assistant with the Ottawa Hills program. He was intrigued to get the chance to lead a program of his own when he learned at the conference meet a year ago that DK-TK-HHS's long-time coach Tyler Bultema was retiring.
“I applied for it, and it was the most nerve-wracking interview of my life with three different athletic directors, six different parents, you've got the boosters on there,” Cochran said. “Everybody is going on down the line asking you questions.”
One of the first things he did with the guys was to work out a new name for the program as a whole, with the coach and many of his swimmers happy to build a new identity and not have to spend so much time rattling off the three-school, co-op title for the team.