Girls swimming captures second-straight conference championship

For the second year in a row, Coach Eric Talsma ended up soaking wet.

Talsma’s emphatic dive into the water capped Hamilton’s second OK-Rainbow Conference championship in only the team’s third year of existence. The Hawkeyes nipped second place host Byron Center 480-464 to secure their second championship in as many years.

“These girls are pretty special,” Talsma said.

The Hawkeyes jumped out to an early lead, with the 200 Medley Relay team winning the first event, and a one-two finish in the 200 yard freestyle event that followed. The team of seniors Jade Evink and Emily La Porta, junior Crystal Jager, and sophomore Dora Berends posted the winning relay time of 1:57.72. Sophomore Brittni Ritter and junior Manda Schierbeek finished the 200 with times of 2:03.12 and 2:04.42, respectively.

Knowing that they would give back points in later events, the quick start was important according to Talsma.

“We needed to get a cushion early,” he said.

Evink, who has verbally committed to swim at Oakland University, took first place in both the 100 Butterfly and the 100 Backstroke. In the process, she shattered her previous conference records in each event.

“I got the best times of the season,” Evink said happily.

The 100 Breaststroke was the best example of just how close the meet was. Jager finished in second place with a time of 1:08.93, only seven hundredths of a second behind Byron Center’s Angela Diorio, the current conference record holder for the event.

“I’m okay with it,” Jager said, “I had my best time ever.”

The Hawkeyes also had first place finishes from sophomore Jessica Naber in diving and Schierbeek in the 500 Freestyle. Naber set a new conference diving record with 364 points, easily shattering the previous record of 328.55.

Overall, the girls were pleased with their performance.

“Everybody swam their hearts out,” Evink said.

“I can’t describe it,” Jager added, “it was so sweet!”

Earning All Conference honors for Hamilton were: Evink, Schierbeek, Ritter, Jager, La Porta, Berends, Naber, senior Caitlin Lohr, and freshman Maddy Kempkers.

With conference over, the team can now look forward to the state finals. They will be sending 11 girls to the event.

“We had some pretty good swims [during conference] that will set us up [for state],” Talsma said.

Evink agrees.

“[The conference title is] huge,” Evink said, “It lets all the state girls know we can swim super fast.”

State finals will take place the weekend of November 17th at the Holland Aquatic Center.

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