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Former gymnast takes a dive
By Ben Buursma
Sara TerHaar
Sara TerHaar (Bradenton, Fla.)

In just four years, senior Sara TerHaar turned herself into one of the top divers in the nation.

A gymnast most of her life, TerHaar found that diving came naturally to her as a freshman on Calvin’s swimming and diving team. And in mid-March, TerHaar capped her career by finishing in 18th place in the three-meter diving national championships, and in 22nd place in the one-meter diving event.

“I’ve always been a lot stronger on the three-meter,” TerHaar said. “So I wanted to do the best I could going into this meet. I had never been to nationals before, and I didn’t really know what to expect or what the competition was going to be like. The atmosphere for the national meet was a lot like the conference meet. It was a lot of fun, and maybe even a little less pressure. This was the last meet of the year for everyone there, and it seemed like everybody just wanted to have some fun and do the best they could.

“Looking back on the meet, I was really happy with the way everything worked out. It was a really nice finish for my season.”

A four-year member of the diving team, TerHaar also made a splash in the MIAA. TerHaar was named to the All-MIAA team in each of the last two years, and she successfully defended her three-meter diving title in 2004 at the conference meet in late February. She also took second place on the one-meter board.

But getting the accolades wasn’t driving the diver. One of the things TerHaar liked best is that — unlike at many other schools — the swimming and diving teams are combined, so all of the Knights in the program spent a lot of time in the pool together.

“Over the last four years, it’s just been a lot of fun getting to know the diving team and the swim team,” TerHaar said.

There were five divers on the women’s side this year, the largest diving contingent of TerHaar’s career. And more than half of Calvin’s swimming and diving team were freshmen in 2003-2004, lending a different feel to the season than TerHaar’s first three. But that didn’t change the way the team was able to connect.

“There was definitely a different atmosphere this year, and I don’t mean that in a bad way,” TerHaar said. “We do a camping trip at the beginning of every year, and we also go to Florida every year. Those are times that we get to know everyone really well.”

TerHaar said she’s glad she came to Calvin and started diving, because when she was younger she barely considered coming to her parents’ alma mater. Instead, she planned to attend a NCAA Division I school and compete on a gymnastics team, but halfway through her senior year at Bradenton (Fla.) Christian High School, a back injury sidelined that dream. With gymnastics out of the picture, TerHaar came to visit her older sister and a friend at Calvin.

“I ended up really liking Calvin when I came up to visit,” TerHaar said. “I’m not really sure why I did, but I thought that Calvin was a really small, really strict college. And once I came, I found it wasn’t like I thought it would be at all. I’ve just had a lot of fun here.

“I feel that Calvin allows you to grow up spiritually yourself, instead of [the school] enforcing all these rules about it. And Calvin has a great Christian atmosphere where you can mature.”

Now that she’s at Calvin and liking it, TerHaar is helping encourage others to come as well. She’s been working as a student assistant in the Calvin College admissions office for four years.

TerHaar, a secondary education student with a mathematics major and Spanish minor, will finish her student teaching next fall, and is planning to marry next winter.