keeps it all in the family
By Jeff Febus
Although Ryan and Abby Johnson have been involved in competitive swimming for years, it was not until this year that the brother-sister combination had the opportunity to swim together.
The result was a season that neither sibling will soon forget, as both earned All-MIAA honors, the second brother-sister combination to do so in Calvin swimming and diving history.
“Abby is three years behind me, so we have never been able to swim in the same season or in the same program until this year,” said Ryan, a senior.
A freshman at Calvin, Abby enjoyed the opportunity to swim with her older brother this year. “It was an awesome experience,” she said. “I love watching Ryan swim. It was so cool to root him on and also have him there to root for me.”
With Ryan putting together a stellar senior season, Abby had a lot to root for. At the MIAA Championships, Ryan took third in the 200 individual medley, fourth in the 100 butterfly and ninth in the 100 freestyle. He was also a member of Calvin’s MIAA championship 800-freestyle relay team. At the NCAA III Championships, Johnson was a member of Calvin’s All-America 400- and 800-freestyle relay teams and filled legs on Calvin’s 200-freestyle and 200-medley relay teams that earned honorable mention All-America honors.
His performances came a year after he was forced to sit out the bulk of the 2002 season with a shoulder injury.
“To watch Ryan come back from his injury and drop times the way he did this year was very inspiring,” said Abby. “It gave me the confidence that I could swim fast and do the same thing.”
Abby did just that as she shattered four Calvin records, establishing new marks in the 100 and 200 butterfly and 200 and 400 individual medley. At the MIAA Championships, she captured league titles in the 200 and 400 individual medley, setting MIAA records in both events. She then added her third league crown by winning the 200 butterfly. At the NCAA III Championships, she garnered honor-able mention All-America accolades in the 200 individual medley with a 13th-place individual finish.
“I was really hoping when Abby was making her college choice that she would choose Calvin because I knew Calvin would be a good fit for her,” said Ryan. “In my opinion she’s the swimmer of the family. To watch her excel the way she did this year brought tears to my eyes at times. It was a blessing to be able to be together this year.”
Ryan and Abby Johnson were part of four sibling combinations in the Calvin swimming and diving program this year. Other sibling sets included Luke and Megan Bagnall, Brian and Kevin Katerberg and Lynn and Jane Visser.
“It was pretty amazing to have that many siblings between our two teams,” said Ryan. “We really have a close, ‘family-type’ atmosphere in our program and to have as many family members together like we do just adds to that.”
Abby is considering a major in speech pathology, while Ryan is majoring in electrical engineering. A regular member of the Dean’s List at Calvin, Ryan is currently involved in a design project with three other engineering seniors. “We’re working on developing solar energy panels that will generate power for the Calvin engineering building,” he said. His group has received a $6,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Energy to develop the project.
“It’s a big challenge but also something very rewarding,” he said. “Finding time to balance the time between swimming and our engineering project has been interesting because the members of my engineering group are not involved in athletics, and they’ve had to rotate their schedules around mine to meet as a group,” he said.
“They’ve been flexible to make it work, which I appreciate very much,” he continued. “The great thing about Calvin is that there is a healthy balance between academics and athletics when you’re an athlete. It has made my experience at Calvin a very positive one.”
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