Rob Peel
BORN: MAY 15, 1965, GRAND HAVEN, MI

    Rob Peel is the fastest swimmer in area history. And in the 1990s, he was among the fastest swimmers in the United States.
    A Spring Lake High School and Hope College graduate, Peel made his biggest splash in swimming's answer to the 100-yard dash — the 50-meter freestyle, a pressure-packed sprint down one length of the pool. Peel finished ninth in the 50 freestyle at the 1992 U.S. Olympic Trials (22.97) and improved on that with a sixth-place finish at the 1996 Olympic Trials (22.80), when he was the second-oldest competitor in the event at 30 years old.
    Peel accomplished that feat despite his very late start in the sport — starting in the pool only after getting cut from the Spring Lake varsity basketball team in 1981. He decided to try swimming and he was a natural, going on to become Hope’s first men’s swimming national champion, winning the 50 freestyle at the 1987 Division III national championships. He finished his career at Hope as an 11-time All-American, became the only MIAA swimmer to capture the league’s 100 freestyle championship in four consecutive years, and earned All-MIAA honors in all four years of competition.
    He still holds the Hope school records in the 50 freestyle (20.69) and 200 freestyle (1:40.66) — the longest-standing Hope swimming records. He was proud to represent Hope and Division III swimming in the three Olympic Trials, which featured almost exclusively Division I swimmers.

Dave VerMerris
BORN: JANUARY 31, 1946, GRAND RAPIDS, MI

    Dave VerMerris started the area’s first high school soccer program at Western Michigan Christian in 1968.  He went on to coach the Warriors to a 333-154-40 record, four state championship appearances and state titles in 1988 and 1995. He taught the nuances of the game to hundreds of students and fellow coaches and is proud of the fact that almost every school in the area now has a soccer team.
    A outstanding swimmer and runner at Grand Rapids Christian in the mid-1960s, VerMerris broke Terry Barr’s Grand Rapids city record in the 440-yard dash with a time of 50.5 seconds. He continued his track success at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, setting a school record 400-meter run in 1967 with a time of 48.1.  The mark stood until the spring of 1999.
  VerMerris didn’t start playing soccer until his freshman year at Calvin when he was approached by men’s coach Marv Zuidema and asked to give it a try. He quickly developed a passion for the sport. The team captain in his junior and senior years, he earned all-conference honors in 1966 and 1967.
    He accepted a teaching position at Western Michigan Christian High School following graduation. Christian had a long tradition of basketball success and when VerMerris started the soccer program at Christian in 1968, no one ever dreamed the largely foreign-based sport would ever rival basketball for supremacy among the Warriors. But thanks to his enthusiasm and coaching skills, the Warriors became known statewide as a soccer powerhouse. 
    After 30 years at WMC, VerMerris returned to his college alma mater.  He took the reigns of the Calvin soccer program from Zuidema who stepped aside after 36 years at the helm.  VerMerris stayed for four seasons, leading the Knights to the MIAA title with a 16-3-1 record in 1999.  Following the 2002 season, he resigned the position to accept a new challenge.  VerMerris returned to WMC as principal and to lead the fundraising drive to move the school to a new, larger location.

Muskegon High School
1951 FOOTBALL TEAM

Click here to watch video from the
1951 Muskegon vs. Muskegon Heights game

        Earl Morrall, one of the greatest football players to ever come out of West Michigan, was one of seven members of the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame’s inaugural induction class in 1987.  But Morrall was just one of numerous stars on the 1951 Big Reds wrecking crew.  The squad outscored its nine opponents 316-32, winning the Southwestern conference title and the state’s mythical Class A gridiron crown.  It was Coach Harry Potter’s (also a member of the Sports Hall of Fame) only unbeaten team in 10 years as coach of the Big Red varsity.
    Following eight straight victories, which included lopsided wins over Battle Creek Central and Hamtramck, as well as conference foes Holland and Grand Haven, the team needed a victory over cross-town rival Muskegon Heights to secure the league title and state championship.  Played on Nov. 11 before a crowd of 11,000 at Muskegon’s Hackley Stadium, the Big Reds delivered.  Morrall threw touchdown passes to Don Rademaker, Ron McDonald and Harry Voss as Muskegon closed out the season with a 26-6 victory over the Tigers.  Running back Bob Fairfield scored the first touchdown of the day for the Big Reds.
    It would be 20 years before Muskegon would claim another state title in football.  Morrall’s 11 touchdown passes on the year remains as a regular season record at the high school.
    Team Members: Front row, L to R:  Jerome Allore, Robert Mixer, Richard Cooke, Jerry Banninga, Don King, Tom Collins, Floyd Clanton, Frank Rahn and John Hoos.  Second row:  Tom McShannock (asst. coach), Robert Runnels, Ron McDonald, Ken Schalk, Norm Wood, Nick Lirones, Bob Soderman, Gene Cuthrell, Roger Groce, Don Rademaker, Robert Eckert and Bill Zimmerman (mgr.) Third row:  Harry Potter (head coach), John Fultz, Harry Voss, Dick Fett, Leland David, Bob Fairfield, Earl Morrall, Charles Clanton, James Kelly, James Riekels, Russ Swanson, Wilbur Kelly (asst. coach) and Ralph Snell (asst. mgr). Fourth row:  Tom Moore, Russell Cribbs, Robert Wilson, Norm Rathbun, Bill Sievers, Robert Wells, Ron Robbins, Jack Schutter and Ray Schutter. Not pictured is Robert Kendall.

Class of 2005