Hope College launches its swimming/diving season on Friday, Oct. 19, by competing in the MIAA Relays to be hosted by Calvin College at its Venema Aquatic Center. The meet involving all MIAA-member colleges will begin at 6 p.m. The meet is non-traditional in that every event is a relay. The outcome does not figure into the conference standings.
John Patnott begins his 33rd season as coach of Hope's swimming/diving program. He has coached Hope teams to 31 conference championships -- 19 by the women and 12 by the men. In terms of total conference championships won (31), he is the winningest active MIAA coach in any sport.
MEN'S PRE-SEASON OUTLOOK
Developing young talent will be the name of the game for the Flying Dutchmen this season.
Hope adds 11 new athletes to the team and will look to the talented newcomers to fill in the openings left by graduated seniors.
Leading the way for the Dutchmen this year are seniors Josh Grabijas (Howell/Howell HS) and Nick Hazekamp (Janesville, Wisc./Joseph A. Craig HS) as they return for their final season. Both are returning MIAA individual conference champions and members of the MIAA all-conference team.
Grabjias earned MIAA championship titles in the 500-yard freestyle and the 1,650-yard freestyle. His time in the 1,650 was a Hope College record as well as an MIAA league record. It also qualified him for a third consecutive trip to the NCAA Championships where he placed 12th and earned Honorable Mention All-American.
Hazekamp finished first in both the 100-yard and 200-yard backstroke at the 2012 MIAA Championships.
The Flying Dutchmen will also rely on seniors Geoff Ludema (Ada/Grand Rapids Christian HS) and Gregg Elhart (Zeeland/Zeeland East HS), juniors Jake Hunt (Muskegon/Mona Shores HS) and Andrew Larson (Jackson/Jackson HS), and sophomore Chris Waechter (Ventura, Calif./Foothill Tech) to make a significant contribution at the conference level.
The large incoming class combined with the group of returnees will provide depth for Hope in the breaststroke, butterfly and distance freestyle events.
WOMEN'S PRE-SEASON OUTLOOK
The Flying Dutch look to build on the success from last year and have high hopes for the new season.
Coming off a second place finish in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA), the Flying Dutch will rely on their experienced returnees to lead the way in the pool.
Hope returns three conference champions from the 2011-12 season. Senior Libby Westrate (Grandville/Grandville HS) won MIAA titles in the 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard freestyle, and the 200-yard freestyle. Junior Maria Kieft (Spring Lake/Spring Lake HS) was crowned champion in the 100-yard backstroke and senior Kyeigh Sheldon (Hastings/Hastings HS) took first on the three-meter board.
All four members of the conference champion 400-yard medley relay team (Kieft, senior Sarah Krueger (Wixom/Walled Lake HS), senior Erin Holstad (Traverse City/Traverse City West HS), and Westrate) are back for another year.
Westrate, Holstad and Sheldon also return this year with experience from the 2012 NCAA Championships.
In her third consecutive trip to nationals, Westrate competed individually in the 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard freestyle and 200-yard freestyle. She earned Honorable Mention All-American honors with a 15th place finish in the 50-yard freestyle. Joined with teammate Holstad, the two competed as members of four Flying Dutch relays. Their performance on the 800-yard freestyle relay earned them a 12th place finish at the championships and Honorable Mention All-American honors.
Kyleigh Sheldon qualified for the NCAA Championships on the one-meter and three-meter boards, finishing 19th and 21st respectively.
The Flying Dutch add 17 new athletes to the squad this year that look to make a significant contribution to the team. The added depth brings strength to the freestyle and backstroke events as well as team relays.