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Women throwers toss out the old records
By Jeff Febus

Before every practice, a group of throwers on the Calvin women's track and field team push a four-wheeled maroon and gold cart filled with various throwing implements out to the discus and shot put rings. Affectionally known as "Knight Rider," the cart is then wheeled back into the equipment shed at the conclusion of each practice.

Over the last two years, the Calvin women's throwing squad has put the cart to good use as the Knights have assaulted the Calvin record books like no female throwing squad in Calvin track and field history.

Calvin thrower - click photo for larger image

During the 2000 track and field season, freshman Mandy VanDenBosch kicked off the assault by shattering a 10-year-old school record in the shot put with a heave of 40-2 at the MIAA Championships. VanDenBosch's record was nearly short-lived this spring as freshman Katie Corner missed breaking the record by seven inches in an April MIAA dual meet against Albion and Adrian. Sophomore Liz Frens also flashed signs of record-breaking potential in the shot put with a throw of 38-2 at the Auburn Springtime Invitational in March. Combined, VanDenBosch, Corner and Frens own three of the top four shot put performances in Calvin women's track and field history.

The record-breaking performances were not limited to the shot put; however, as freshman Jamie Febo, Corner and junior Beth VanderHeide all matched or surpassed the Calvin discus record this spring. Febo shattered the previous record of 131-5 with a throw of 133-11 in an April MIAA dual meet against Alma and St. Mary's. A week later, Corner came within two inches of Febo's new mark with a throw of 133-9 at the Millikin Classic with VanderHeide matching the old record of 131-5 at the Hillsdale Relays a week after Corner's performance.

At the MIAA Championships May 4, Calvin swept the top two spots in the discus including four of the top five as Febo took first, Corner second, VanderHeide fourth and Frens fifth. "I didn't realize the potential of our group until the MIAA Championships," said Corner. "To have four people place in the discus was huge. I think at that point, I started realizing that we had a really strong group of throwers."

To top it off, senior Andrea Rip captured the MIAA title in the javelin and then proceeded to earn All-America honors in the event with a seventh place throw of 133-9, becoming the first female All-American thrower at Calvin since 1994.

Calvin thrower - Click on photo for larger image

"Our female throwers had an exciting year," said Calvin throwing coach Norm Zylstra. "We had the biggest group of throwers that Calvin has ever had and it was enjoyable to coach them and watch them push each other in practice and in competitions."

An All-American shot-putter at Calvin in 1988, Zylstra is one of three Calvin throwing coaches with All-America credentials as Steve Seth (javelin) and Steve Michmerhuizen (discus and shot put) all earned All-America accolades three times during their Calvin careers.

"You won't find a better coaching staff in Division III track and field or for that matter, at many Division II and I schools," said Calvin women's track and field coach Ralph Honderd. "Calvin is extremely blessed to have coaches like Norm Zylstra, Steve Seth and Steve Michmerhuizen."

Having recently completed her four-year Calvin career in the javelin, Rip agrees. "I owe a lot to our coaching staff," said Rip. "I know I never would have been an All-American without the coaching of Steve Seth. I never thought I had that kind of potential when I came to Calvin but he kept believing in me and by the time I was done with my sophomore year, I started believing it too."

An all-state performer at Grand Rapids Catholic Central High School, Corner echoed the praises of Calvin's coaching staff. "When I was in high school, I had to do a lot of practicing on my own," said Corner. "That's the way most high school teams are because there are only so many coaches to go around. When I got to Calvin and had a coaching staff of three people watching me at every practice, I was blown away. It was awesome."

Having a large group of talented teammates to push her in practice and competition also proved to be a bonus. "It's a big advantage to have some of your best competition on your own team," said Corner. "We push each other to be better and we also provide support for one another when things aren't going well. The unique thing about the Calvin track and field team is that it is one big family that supports one another."

According to Seth, contributions to the team's success do not just come from the individuals placing at the top in competition. "Some of our less talented throwers are our hardest workers and biggest cheerleaders," said Seth. "Even though they may not place high in a track meet, those individuals contribute a lot with the tone they set with their work ethic and attitude towards their teammates. We emphasize that every individual counts toward the success of our team."

The hard work begins with a series of plyometric training exercises that includes work with jump boxes, medicine balls and sprints on the track to build explosive quickness, strength and speed. "We instituted plyometrics about six years ago and it really helped the throwers on our men's team," said Zylstra. "The last two years our women have really caught on to the benefits of plyometric training and along with that, their performance level has picked up."

As for the future of the Calvin women's throwing squad, Zylstra is optimistic. "I think we're building a strong tradition and the challenge is to continue building it," said Zylstra. "This group has a lot of youth, enthusiasm and talent. If our women continue to work hard and support each other, they have the potential of doing some really big things.

Women's Track & Field

Knights In Action
Photos from the Alma meet and the MIAA Finals

NCAA III Finals
Features on Lindsay Mulder and Annie VanderLaan

NCAA III Great Lakes Athlete of the Year
Megan Pierce honored


MIAA Track & Field

 

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