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Musical diver finds her balance
By Annalise Venhuizen

Lis BealBalance is a key element in diving — an element that must often be practiced and learned. Balance is also a key element in life; it also sometimes takes a bit of practice to get it right.

At Calvin, senior Lis Beal had the opportunity to practice both. The Grand Rapids (Mich.) Christian High School graduate learned to dive in high school, but diving was not the most practiced talent Beal carried along to Calvin. She started playing the violin at age 5, has been in orchestras since sixth grade and organized a string quartet in high school. Wanting to continue her musical career, Beal soon found competing interests vying for her time. “Freshman year was tough,” she said. “I spread myself too thin. I had to learn how to prioritize.”

During her first two years of college, Beal participated in orchestra and diving, both of which involve practices and performances. On top of those commitments were the academic and social demands of college life. “I tried to get involved in as much as I could to meet new people,” Beal said. “I didn’t want to let any of the opportunities pass.” Beal also remained involved with the string quartet, playing regularly at weddings, parties and church services. 

Balancing the athletic and musical opportunities — instead of choosing between them — was important to Beal because both were important to her family. “My dad loves that I do music and diving because those are two things he was always excited about,” Beal said.

Beal was introduced to diving through her older sister, who swam and dove during high school. It was not until later that Beal discovered she could also trace the interest in diving back to her father. “I didn’t know this about him when I started diving,” Beal said. “He went to Western Michigan University and dove.”

Though her father provides “technical advice,” Beal also appreciates her mother’s supportive role: “She has come to the majority of my meets since I started diving and has supported me a ton with music and diving.”

The support she receives and the talents she possesses in both areas made choosing between music and diving difficult. “It took me awhile to figure out how to balance my time,” Beal said. “It’s a fine balance.”

Though diving was always a priority during the season, Beal “only practiced about one hour per day freshman and sophomore year” because of her involvement with music.

In her junior year, however, Beal found balance through weighing out her priorities by semester. “I concentrated on diving in the fall and orchestra in the spring,” Beal said. “I cut back on music my junior year, and my diving improved. I was able to practice more consistently.” 

Diving coach Aaron Paskvan, now in his second year with the Knights, also attributed Beal’s improvement junior year to increased practice time. “Last year she committed herself to practicing six days a week for two-plus hours a day, and she saw how good she could be,” Paskvan said.

The extra time commitment was reflected in Beal’s diving repertoire.“This past season she tried tougher dives and pushed herself to the limits,” Paskvan said. “If you compare her diving list to last year’s, most dives are completely different. As a coach, that’s not something I can say I see very often.”

The diver’s contributions in the MIAA meet helped Calvin win its fourth-straight MIAA conference title. Though Beal had been part of the previous three conference championship teams, she calls this season her “biggest accomplishment, the most rewarding.”

“This year we lost to Hope during the season, which was a blow because we’d never lost to a conference team in past years. But it gave us the spark we needed,” Beal said. “It was a lot more of a team effort this year because it took everyone’s second-, third-, and fourth-place efforts to take conference. And everyone met her goals.”

“She found what she loves,” head swimming coach Dan Gelderloos added. “When she first started she was balancing diving and music, but during the last two years she put music a little bit on the back burner and put emphasis on diving and training. She’s the most improved of any divers over the last two years. She had a great career.”

Though not participating in orchestra this year, Beal did not rid her life of music; she just balanced her two passions in a different way. “I study solo with Professor David Reimer and am the concertmaster of the new string orchestra,” Beal said. In addition, she still plays with the string quartet. 

Beal is still deciding on her other future involvements. After graduating this May with a major in psychology and a youth ministry minor, Beal may go to graduate school for educational psychology or school counseling. 

She is interested in working in areas where her studies overlap: “My heart is pulled toward high school and middle school girls because there is a lot of need there,” said Beal, who has experience with that population through working with Young Life, a ministry in which college students serve as mentors and leaders to high-schoolers.