GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Calvin men's swimming & diving team claimed its fourth MIAA title on Saturday evening. The Knights proved that every point matters, winning on the final race of the championships. The path was not easy for the Knights, with the Calvin trailing Albion on paper heading into the evening session, but the Maroon and Gold navigated the path to victory and hoisted the MIAA championship trophy on Saturday at the Venema Aquatic Center.
"In my 22 years here, I have never seen anything like this evening," said Calvin head coach Dan Gelderloos. "It was truly something that I will be telling stories about for years and years to come. We finished the prelims and my assistants mapped out what we had to do, I looked at it and said 'that would be nice.' But slowly but surely starting off with Levi in the backstroke and the next event, they got some consolation points for us, they got the emotion going and one domino after another, they just kept falling and falling and falling and I am still trying to figure it all out."
The Knights avenged the second-place finish in 2017 and took back the MIAA crown with 934.5 points, six points ahead of the Britons of Albion College. Calvin won 14 events at the MIAA Championships, including five on Saturday night.
Junior Ben Holstege (Keswick, Va./Covenant) was named the MIAA Men's Most Valuable Swimmer for his performance this week. Individually he won MIAA titles in the 50-yard freestyle (20.64), 100-yard backstroke (48.99) and 200-yard backstroke (1:49.84). He was also a part of winning relays in the 200-yard freestyle, the title-clinching 400-yard freestyle, 800-yard freestyle and 400-yard medley.
Sophomore Brian Goins (Rochester Hills, Mich./Rochester Adams) started the evening with a fourth-place finish in the 1650-yard freestyle on Saturday clocking in at 16:40.19.
The ball started rolling for Calvin in the 200-yard backstroke. Freshman Levi Nelesen (Zeeland, Mich./Holland Christian) won the consolation finals for Calvin with a time of 1:58.69. Ben Holstege took home the gold for Calvin with a first-place and school-record time of 1:49.84, edging out top-seeded Parker Belmore of Albion. Freshman Colin Murphy (Troy, Mich./Brother Rice) dropped 0.41 second from the prelims to finish in fifth place at 1:54.41, the sixth-fastest time in school history.
The Knights landed a successful one-two punch in the 100-yard freestyle. Junior Skyler Fish (Ionia, Mich./Ionia) and junior Jared Britton (Falls Church, Va./George Mason) jumped the top-seeded Len Ciemnicki of Albion. Fish won the race with the second-fastest time in program history at 45.70 and Britton passed the Briton at 46.04. Senior Max DeYoung (Grand Rapids, Mich./Forest Hills Eastern) dropped his time from the prelims to finish in fourth place at 46.64. Sophomore Tim Randall (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids Christian) touched the wall at 47.24.
Jacob Lensing flexed his muscles and got the crowd going with a victory in the consolation finals of the 200-yard breaststroke at 2:16.75, cutting off 6.88 seconds off his morning time. Sophomore Fear Churchwell (Athens, Ga./Clarke Central) finished in third place at 2:07.13, the fourth-fastest time in school history. Sophomore Sam Holstege (Keswick, Va./Covenant) clocked in at 2:15.69 in eighth place.
Freshman Ryan Gelderloos (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids Christian) stirred up the crowd in the consolation finals of the 200-yard butterfly with a come from behind victory to win the heat at 1:58.42, dropping almost two seconds from the morning. Senior Tanner Vincent (Novi, Mich./Novi) had a sensational final race in the pool and rallied to catch Albion's Kozycki and win the race at 1:51.98. Freshman Lucas Holcombe (Ann Arbor, Mich./Huron) improved from the morning session and finished at 1:57.22. Junior Nathan Olberding (Noblesville, Ind./Noblesville) (1:58.35) and Brian Goins (1:58.51) picked up key points for Calvin in seventh and eighth place respectively to give the Knights the lead.
"I feel exhausted and super proud," said diving coach Aaron Paskvan. "I think as a group for the men, they showed tremendous character and a lot of fight. This is what sports are about, this is why we do all the things we do and talk about growing up as kids and growing up to young men. As a program, we couldn't be prouder of the group. All night long, there were little shifts in the meet that made it possible and Mike set that up with a great performance. We have talked several times about emotional readiness and being able to manage the moment and he has been phenomenal all year, but tonight it was six up and six down and he was ready and prepared for the occasion."
Danger loomed for the Knights in the diving well with four Britons lurking in the finals. Senior Michael Moentmann (Solon, Ohio/Solon) stood strong and won the 3-meter event with a score of 513.85.
"It was a great experience," said Moentmann. "I love this team and I would have been happy losing with this team, but so happy to win with this team."
The Britons finished in second, third, seventh, and eight places on the boards to tie the meet at 894 points, heading into the final race.
Like the Saturday night session, the 400-yard freestyle really was tight from start to finish. The Jared Britton, Skyler Fish, Max DeYoung and freshman Julian Iturbe won with a time of 3:02.20, to take back the MIAA crown from Albion in second place at 3:02.71.
"I knew Albion had four really strong swimmers," said Gelderloos. "I knew Albion was not going to give up. I thought that we were slightly favored in it. Overall, I thought we had a good chance and it came down to the wire and it was awesome to see them pull it off in the crunch time. It is something that they are going to remember forever."
The Knights will wait to see who will advance to the NCAA Division III Championships in Indianapolis, Indiana, in March. The divers will head to the NCAA Division III Central Regional Championships in Chicago, Illinois, on Friday and Saturday.