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Hard work trumps talent for junior swimmer
By Jeff Febus

Keith ConradWhen Calvin swim coach Dan Gelderloos looks at Keith Conrad, he sees someone who reminds him of himself.

Although not the most talented member of Calvin’s men’s swim team in the early 1990s, Gelderloos was certainly one of the team’s hardest workers, with his work ethic driving him to success.

Nearly 15 years later, Keith Conrad is doing the same.

“Keith Conrad has an all-around work ethic that you just can’t coach,” Gelderloos said. “He has never shied away from a (workout) set, no matter how difficult it is.”

Currently a junior at Calvin, Conrad regularly competes in some of the most demanding events: the butterfly events and distance freestyle events. At the MIAA championships this winter, Conrad took fourth in the 100-meter butterfly and 200-meter butterfly and eighth in the 500-meter freestyle, posting career-best times in all three races.

On the final day of the 2007 MIAA championships, Conrad pulled off an iron-man feat, placing third in the 1,650-meter freestyle with a time of 16:45.55 and then taking sixth in the 200-meter butterfly less than two hours later.

“I don’t have the most natural talent in the world so I’ve chosen to compete in events that are directly tied to work ethic,” Conrad said.

“It gives me a chance to succeed.”

A graduate of Wheaton Warrenville South High School in Wheaton, Ill., Conrad came to Calvin through the tip of a neighbor. “I had a neighbor who graduated from Calvin and highly recommended that I come here,” Conrad said. “I was also looking for a Christian school with an engineering program and a Division III swim team. Calvin was one of the few places that met all three of those requirements.”

Keith ConradAt Calvin, Conrad has thrived, majoring in engineering while serving as a key contributor on the Calvin men’s swim team. As a student, Conrad has already designed an audio amplifier and would like to build and design audio electronic equipment in his postgraduate career.

“Academically I’ve been very impressed with my Calvin education,” he said. “I’ve received a lot of hands-on experience with my engineering classes, and my professors have offered a great deal of individual attention. The thing that I like about my major [engineering with a concentration in electrical engineering] is that it is a real broad field, and it leaves me with several options down the road.”

Athletically, Conrad will head into his final collegiate year of swimming next fall, where he will be one of four seniors on the Calvin roster. “Swimming is kind of a love-hate relationship for me,” admitted Conrad. “The sport is very demanding and doesn’t leave you with much time to do anything else other than your schoolwork. At the same time, I don’t know what I would do without swimming. It’s something I’ve always done and always loved.”

Conrad eagerly awaits the opening of Calvin’s new state-of-the-art Venema Aquatic Center. “It’s going to be great,” he said. “The new pool is something that we’ve all been looking forward to for a long time. I’ve competed in some top-notch facilities as a swimmer, including several Division I pools, but our new pool is going to be right up there with them.”

Gelderloos said the Venema Aquatic Center has heightened interest in his recruiting efforts for the men’s and women’s swim teams for next year. “I’m anticipating a large freshmen class for both of our teams next fall,” Gelderloos said. “With our men’s team in particular, we will be very young.”

Conrad, however, will help lead the way. “Keith will be a key senior leader next year,” Gelderloos said. “His positive attitude and work ethic will be invaluable components of our team.”