BORN: MAY 15, 1965, GRAND HAVEN, MI
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
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
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.
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
Click here to watch video from the
1951 Muskegon vs. Muskegon Heights game
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.
Front row, L to
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.