Girls swim and dive takes second place in Conference Meet with five State-qualifiers


This weekend marked the last time the 2017 girls swim and dive team would compete together as a whole. FHC finished second behind a dominant East Grand Rapids Pioneers team in the two-day OK Greater-Grand Rapids meet with a score of 336.5. With every swimmer from all eight schools racing on Friday, only those with a certain qualifying time were able to compete on Saturday. The Lady Rangers had an impressive 19 swimmers qualify for day two, showing their all-around depth and talent.

Junior Jessica Schellenboom led the team with two first-place finishes, setting new Conference Records with each time she clocked in with both the 200 IM and 100 Breaststroke.

“[Setting new] records felt really good,” Jessica said. “Going in, I wasn’t sure what would happen and I wasn’t expecting the conference records, but it was a nice bonus. After getting those times, I feel really good and excited and ready for states.”

First-year Head Coach Dennis Neat couldn’t be more pleased with how the swimmers have adapted to and accepted his new coaching style. He focuses more on a cross-training practice schedule, trying to build an overall athlete rather than just a swimmer. This new mindset helped prepare the team for a great season.

“For my first year with the girls, I’m really excited about what they were able to accomplish this weekend,” Neat said. “Second place to East Grand Rapids is an honor; they’re a very talented team. [This outcome] feels great. That’s the whole reason we get up at 5:30 in the morning and train until 6 o’clock at night every day.”

For the majority of the team, this meet marked the end of the season. But, for five talented and determined Lady Rangers, one more meet awaits: the State Championship. Senior Felicity Buchmaier, Jessica Schellenboom, sophomore Olivia Luplow, freshman Olivia Hooper and freshman Emily Johnson all qualified for the State Meet, meeting or beating the state cut times in their respective events. The 400 Freestyle Relay team of Felicity, Molly Weiblen, Jessica, and Olivia Luplow qualified for States as well.

“It’s really exciting to see all the hard work finally came together,” Olivia Hooper said. “It would feel really great [to win at states], especially as a freshman to show everyone what I can do.”

The swimmers have the skill level to perform highly at the upcoming meet, but the mental side of this stressful competition is half the battle.

“It comes down to [having] a clear mind and confidence,” two-time State Champion and four-time qualifier Felicity said. “I just have to pretend that I’m at a duel meet and that’s going to calm my nerves. If you get too hyped up about it, you lose control. I just have to keep calm and collected.”

The dive team, carrying a defending State Champion title of their own, was led by the title-holding junior Anna Hansen as she placed second in this meet, with seniors Colleen Kramer and Nicole Carlson placing third and fourth, respectively.

“It’s getting exciting because you just know that everything that is coming up is what you’ve been working towards,” said Anna, as she shifts into a postseason mentality for the upcoming meets. “It would be the coolest thing ever to be a two-time State Champion. That’s what I’ve been working for this whole season and it has always been my biggest goal. [The winner will] likely be me, Colleen, or a girl from the East side that is dominating over there, but it’s definitely my goal.”

The divers must compete and qualify for the State Meet by doing well on Thursday in the Regional meet. However, based on previous scores, it is more than likely that all three Ranger divers will qualify for States.

As these eight Rangers dial in for the all-important upcoming weeks, some of their teammates hang up their caps and goggles until next season, and for a few seniors, forever.

“Swimming taught me how to be a good teammate and leader,” senior Abby Hier said. “It’s been the best part of my high school career. It was probably the best season yet.”

There are a select few, however, who will have another chance at obtaining a State cut. On Tuesday this week, at Holland Community pool, there will be a meet for those on the brink of a qualifying time. Multiple Ranger swimmers will be competing in this meet and will hopefully join their already qualified teammates at the State Meet on November 17 and 18.

The girls swim and dive team ultimately went out with a bang, showing up and performing in this crucial meet. Their season-long success continued this past weekend and their coach had nothing but praise for his swimmers and their grit.

“We had a really close battle with Grand Rapids Christian and Northview [this meet] and the girls continuously swam stronger the second day,” Neat said. “We were able to pull away from those two schools to secure our second place. This weekend was phenomenal.”