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Cross country runner finds right balance at Calvin
By Jeff Febus
Hendrik Kok
Hendrik Kok (Lynden, Wash.)

A move down has translated into a big move up for Calvin sophomore Hendrik Kok. A native of Lynden, Wash., and a graduate of Lynden Christian High School, Kok elected to begin his collegiate career close to home at the University of Washington, a NCAA Division I institution. At Lynden Christian High School, Kok compiled an illustrious cross country and track and field record but at the University of Washington, his running career stalled.

After completing his first year at Washington, Kok decided to transfer to Calvin—a school he had looked at while a senior in high school. Kok arrived at Calvin in time for the second semester and the outdoor track and field season last spring.

The move provided a breath of fresh air for Kok. "The expectations at a Division I program are quite a bit different," said Kok. "They expect running to consume the majority of your experience there. At Calvin, it's more important to develop other areas of your life. One of the main reasons I left [Washington] was because I felt like I was being consumed by running and it just wasn't as important to me as my education and future degree was."

Kok's impact was immediate as he went on to capture MIAA titles in the 800 and 1,500 meter runs to earn a spot on the All-MIAA men's track and field team. At the NCAA III Track and Field Championships, Kok helped Calvin to a national runner-up team finish as he earned a pair of All-America berths, finishing sixth in the 1,500 meters and third in the 5,000 meters.

Despite dropping down two divisions, Kok found that the level of coaching had exceeded any that he had received before. "When I got here I expected that the level of running would be a bit lower but I found out quickly that it wasn't true," he said. "The coaching at Calvin was even better. I was gaining a better education, a better atmosphere and a better opportunity to get the most out of running."

This fall, Kok sparkled in his first season on the Calvin men's cross country team as he took first place at the MIAA and Great Lakes Regional Championships by large margins. He was named the MIAA's Most Valuable Runner and the Great Lakes Regional Athlete of the Year.

At the NCAA III Championships in Northfield, Minn., Kok earned All-America honors with a ninth-place individual finish as he helped Calvin finish second as a team.

"Hendrik had an awesome cross country season," said Calvin men's cross country coach Brian Diemer. "The exciting thing about Hendrik is that he has not reached his potential yet. The sky is the limit for him."

According to Kok, his improvements as a runner are directly tied to Diemer and fellow coaches Al Hoekstra and Robert Hyde. "Our coaches are all different but they work together so well and they all bring something great to our team," said Kok.

KNowing that Diemer is a former three-time U.S. Olympian and Olympic bronze medalist in the 3,000 meter steeplechase is also a confidence booster.

"It's amazing to run for him," said Kok. "He knows what it takes to run fast from experience, not just from reading something from a book. It gives you a big reason to listen to everything he says."

A biology major, Kok carries a 3.7 grade point average and plans to pursue a medical career. "The professors here at Calvin have been great," said Kok. "They are willing to be flexible with my running schedule and they've gone out of their way to come up and congratulate me when I have a good race. It's a real blessing to have professors who take a personal interest in what you are doing."

Kok also serves as a student assistant in the Calvin admissions office where he conveys a strong message to prospective students. "I tell people that Calvin is balanced so well," said Kok. "Running is important here but it isn't something that will take over your life.

"Academics at Calvin are difficult but the professors want you to succeed and are willing to work with you. Most importantly, the spiritual atmosphere at Calvin is a wonderful place to grow as a Christian."

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