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A long-distance swimmer, Asher Mains
By Ben Buursma
Asher Mains
Asher Mains

Hundreds of Calvin College’s students come from countries far away. And a few Knights are long-distance swimmers. Sophomore Asher Mains is the only one who can claim he does both.

Mains, who hails from the Caribbean island of Grenada—north of Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago—swims 500-meter freestyle and 1,650-meter freestyle races for the Calvin swim team. Both are long, draining races. And if you think it takes a special kind of person to join a swim team with early morning and evening practices for most of the year, it really takes something special to swim 20- and 66-lap races.

Mains was forced into the longer events, he says, because he just wasn’t fast enough in the shorter races.

“It probably happened because I wasn’t a fast enough sprinter,” Mains said of his morph into distance swimming. “It so happened that missing intervals meant that I’d swim for long distances for a long time. I would hit the wall and keep going without a rest if I couldn’t get back in time for the 50, so there was some conditioning in the early stages.

“It’s definitely draining, especially in the later parts of the season. It’s hard to visualize yourself swimming 66 laps.”

Mains started his swimming career at age 13 and swam competitively for Grenada against other islands in the Caribbean. He would train for several months before meets, which he competed in four or five times each year. Now he’s getting used to packing several meets into a single season.

Mains grew up on an island that culturally is very close to West Africa; he faced a number of adjustments at Calvin.

“It’s definitely taken some adjustment,” Mains said of his move to Michigan. “When I first came, I had a hard time calling [Calvin swimming] Coach Gelderloos ‘Dan,’ because it’s taboo to call [older] people by their first names in Grenada.”

Aside from his swimming talents, Mains also shares his aptitude for drumming with the Calvin community. An avid player of the djembe (a type of drum), Mains has taken part in Rangeela for the past two years. Rangeela is a talent and variety show of music, dance, theater and other artistic productions put on by Calvin’s international students.

Sankofa drum group
Members of Sankofa perform at Spring Semester Convocation, February 2004.

“I picked it up from home,” Mains said. “The culture is very rhythmic, and drumming was something I was very much involved in. I played for a dance company for a year, and then I started my own group in Grenada.”

His group at Calvin has also performed for the Worship Symposium and for Convocation.

Mains, who is pursuing a major in intercultural studies and performance, hadn’t heard of Calvin before he started college hunting.

He researched several schools before deciding to come to Grand Rapids.

“It was a process of criteria and elimination,” Mains said. “I knew I was coming to the States for college; I just didn’t know where. I wanted to go to a small Christian liberal arts college with a swim team. I have no history with Calvin; no one from my family has gone here, and to the best of my knowledge, no one from my country. There is only one other person here from the English-speaking Caribbean, and he’s from Trinidad.”

“I enjoy the Christian Reformed perspective on things,” Mains added. “The school is very accommodating to international students with the orientations and keeping the heads up. And it’s a very diverse group, as well. I’ve just enjoyed the opportunities that I’ve been able to take advantage of here.”