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Shot putters push each other to national success
By Annalise VenHuizen
Lisa Nanninga and Megann Vander Vliet
Lisa Nanninga (left) and
Megann Vander Vliet

Senior Lisa Nanninga currently holds the Calvin shot put record. She knows her reign could be short lived, however.

As a junior, Nanninga held the shot put record for a few weeks until then-senior Katie Corner threw further. “My goal was to break her record, because she took it away from me at the end,” Nanninga said. Now Nanninga expects sophomore Megann Vander Vliet to out-do her next season. “I expect her to break my record, and I’d be disappointed if she didn’t.”

The rivalry, though competitive, is friendly. Even more, the competition is vital to the success of each athlete. Nanninga said the competition helps in practice and at meets. “When Katie [Corner] threw far, I wanted to, too,” said Nanninga. “Megann pushes me because her throws are close to mine.” At some meets this year, Vander Vliet even threw farther than Nanninga, keeping the competition alive and keeping Nanninga at the top of her game.

Vander Vliet said the same of Nanninga. “I don’t think I’d be throwing as far without her because she pushes me in practice and in dual meets,” said Vander Vliet.

Yet each has talent of her own to which she can attribute success. Nanninga began throwing during her junior year at Grand Rapids Christian High. She has steadily improved over her six years of shot putting, improving to 46-11 1/2 this season, a personal best throw that stands as a Calvin record and placed her second on the Division III national list. Nanninga provisionally qualified for nationals as a sophomore but didn’t make the final cut. As a junior, she provisionally qualified and went on to place seventh, earning All-American honors. This season, she again earned All-American honors with a sixth-place finish.

Vander Vliet never competed in track and field until last season. She came to Calvin from Ontario, where she played volleyball, basketball and rugby. As a freshman at Calvin last year, Vander Vliet played on the soccer team but didn’t really think about participating in track. “Coach Kim came up to me in the weight room and said that I should throw, so I said I would give it a try,” said Vander Vliet.

Vander Vliet qualified for nationals and placed 12th in her first season of participating in collegiate track and field. Her throw of 44-11/2 also qualified her for the Canadian Olympic trials last summer, though she did not compete. She is currently ranked fifth in shot put and 11th in discus among Canadians.

She qualified for both shot and discus this year, placing third in shot with a throw of 46-43/4 and 12th in discus with a 125-3.

“Megann will continue to improve; she is dedicated to fitness and health, and that is always the best way for throwers to improve,” said throwing coach Norm Zylstra.

Nanninga plans to graduate with a major in elementary education after student teaching next fall; Vander Vliet hopes to continue her studies related to exercise science — and to follow the tradition of record-breaking shot putters.