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Kloostra and Conrad pair up
for women's swim championship
By Jeff Febus

Put the names "Kloostra" and "Conrad" together and you have what sounds like the title of a powerful law firm or business corporation. Put the two names together in the pool and you have a powerful one-two combination that has helped the Calvin women's swim team rise to the top of the MIAA standings over the last three years.

As freshmen, Erin Kloostra and Kate Conrad formed a strong friendship on the Calvin women's swimming team that has become even stronger over the last three years. "We were paired up as roommates our freshman year and we really hit it off," said Kloostra, a graduate of Grand Rapids Christian High School. "Swimming gave us a lot of common ground but we also found out that we have a lot of other things in common. We've been roommates all three years at Calvin and at this point, we pretty much know everything about each other."

It is not often that one is seen without the other.

"It's gotten to the point where it is pretty funny," said Conrad, a graduate of Calvin Christian High School. "People are so used to seeing us together that when one of us is alone, people will say, 'Where's your other half?'"

When asked if they share each other's clothes Kloostra responded, "Oh, all the time. We share just about everything."

That also extends to the pool as Kloostra and Conrad swim in the same events - the 50, 100 and 200 freestyle. They are also members of the same relay teams. Despite swimming in the same events, Kloostra and Conrad push each other in a positive fashion, according to head coach Dan Gelderloos.

"They get along so well because they balance each other with the way they approach things," said Gelderloos. "Erin is very focused and intense with a do-or-die type of attitude while Kate is more laid-back and care-free. Erin helps push Kate's intensity up in the pool but when Erin gets too intense, Kate is able to bring her back down to earth and relax."

Having your best friend swimming in the same lane helps alleviate some of the pain and fatigue that comes with the daily grind of grueling practice sessions. "Practices are always going to be hard but if you can laugh in between sets and crack inside-jokes with your friends, it makes the practices go so much faster," said Conrad. "It makes you forget about the pain until practice is over."

Both swimmers have found success individually as Kloostra has been a member of the All-MIAA team three times while Conrad has been so honored twice. As freshmen, Kloostra and Conrad joined seniors Erica Smith and Kristi VanWoerkom on Calvin's All-American 400 freestyle relay team that finished eighth at the NCAA III Championships. The eighth place finish marked the first All-American relay performance by a Calvin swim team.

"I was really in awe when I went to nationals as a freshman," said Conrad. "I felt like I didn't belong there at first," Kloostra agreed. "It was scary at first. I didn't know what to think. We were fortunate to have the two seniors there to lead us."

Kloostra and Conrad returned to nationals as sophomores and helped lead Calvin's 200 freestyle relay team to a 15th place finish and its 400 freestyle relay team to a 16th place performance, allowing both teams to earn honorable mention All-American distinction.

As juniors, the two swimmers felt more at home at the national meet as they joined sophomores Anne Kuiper and Katie Nagelkirk on Calvin's 200 freestyle relay team that captured All-America accolades with a seventh-place finish. The same quartet also finished 14th in the 800 freestyle relay with a school record time of 7:52.33 while also placing 11th in the 400 freestyle to allow the Knights to post their first-ever top-20 national finish as Calvin finished 19th with 42 points.

"We felt like we belonged," said Conrad. "We had been there before and we knew what to expect." That prior experience helped the two act as leaders rather than as followers, said Kloostra. "When we were freshmen, we followed what the seniors did," she said.

"Erin and Kate learned how to be leaders this year," said Gelderloos. "They learned what the importance of being a team really is and they carried on the tradition that the seniors established when they were both freshmen."

Their leadership qualities were evident throughout the 2000-2001 season as they helped push the Knights to their first-ever MIAA title as Calvin snapped a nine-year hold on the league title by Hope. Although Calvin was edged in a dual meet by Hope in January, the Knights were able to overtake the Flying Dutch in the final league standings with a first place total of 552 points at the MIAA Championships in Holland. At the MIAA Championships, Kloostra took second in the 50 freestyle; third in the 100 freestyle and fifth in the 200 freestyle while Conrad was second in the 100, third in the 50 and fourth in the 200 freestyle. Kloostra and Conrad were also part of three MIAA championship relay teams.

"Winning the MIAA title was just awesome," said Conrad. "We knew we had the depth to win but we had always finished behind Hope so it was a matter of believing that we would do it."

"We didn't get too excited until the last night of the league championships," said Kloostra. "It was pretty exciting when they brought the trophy out and announced Calvin as MIAA champions."

"It was really cool because you could see how excited Coach (Gelderloos) was and how much it meant to him," continued Kloostra. "He had been here a lot longer than we had and he was the one who helped build this program up. When we were freshmen, he kept telling us that we could win the MIAA championship. It says a lot when you have a coach who believes in you like that."

 

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