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Cultural experience benefits swimmer
By Lynn Bolt Rosendale
Jake VanderPlas - click photo to enlarge image
Jake Vander Plas

When Jake Vander Plas was deciding which college to attend, he knew that he was looking for a place where he could swim, but still have other priorities. He believes he found that place at Calvin.

"The best example of that is the fact that I went to Japan last semester and actually joined the swim team midseason—when I got back," he said. "(Coach) Dan (Gelderloos) was really open to that."

While his study in Japan didn't do much for his swimming this year, he learned a lot about himself and other cultures.

"I think what influenced me the most was that I was away from the Calvin community and the majority of people around me weren't Christian," he said. "I went to a public high school so I had experienced that before, but I wasn't as ready to share my faith then. In Japan, I had a lot of opportunity to talk to people about it."

Knowing little Japanese at first while living in a Japanese household with a family that was Buddhist was certainly eye-opening for Vander Plas, of Palo Alto, Calif.

"It was more fun than studying French or Spanish here," he said.

Coming back in January put Vander Plas about three months behind his teammates and the competition in swimming.

A top-six MIAA finisher in the 200 backstroke and individual medley the last two years, Vander Plas, now a junior, is still working to get back to that form.

"The pressure is off this year," he said. "I am swimming more for fun this year."

The camaraderie on the team is what drew Vander Plas back even at midseason.

"I love the team," he said. "We've had great leadership the last few years and we all have a good time hanging out. One of the coolest things is that everyone is a Christian and every Monday we do a chapel together and we pray for each other. It's a really good community to be involved with."

Building camaraderie among swimmers can be a difficult thing because of the individual nature of the sport, but this team has no problem with that, said Vander Plas.

"When you get to the wall and you have three seconds to rest, you need someone there who is telling you're going great and keep it up," he said. "The best thing about it is knowing that at the end of practice you're with a group of people who just did the same thing."

Vander Plas, who is majoring in physics and has participated in Gospel Choir, Dance Guild and dorm leadership, is grateful for all of the things he has had the opportunity to experience at Calvin.

"Even though I've been working hard at swimming, there has been time to do other things at the same time," he said. "Calvin has helped me grow in my faith and given me a chance to keep my priorities straight."

Men's Swimming & Diving

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