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Senior encourages other to dive in
By Matt Decker

Dennis SteenbergenA diver is something Dennis Steenbergen never imagined he would be. In fact Steenbergen, a senior accounting major with a minor in biology, came to Calvin with no diving experience whatsoever.

“In high school I never did diving, never did gymnastics, anything like that. So my first time ever diving was at Calvin,” said Steenbergen. “I actually tried out for the hockey team, but didn’t make that. However, I still wanted to be involved in something at Calvin.”

Steenbergen, who hails from London, Ont., was encouraged to try swimming by his then-freshman roommate, senior Evan Chong, who was on the swim team. Steenbergen, who vows he does not swim very well, said no. Chong then told Steenbergen that he could always try diving.

“I was pretty open to the idea. Really, I figured the worst that could happen was that I didn’t like it and I quit,” said Steenbergen. He tried out, but it was not exactly love at first splash.

“When you don’t know what you are doing, water is not as soft as you might think it is,” he said. “So there were definitely struggles, but it was my teammates that helped me through them. They were always there to encourage me, and always there to pick me up.”

Steenbergen, a Dean’s List honoree, found the diving season long and intense. “The most rewarding part, in addition to learning a pretty cool skill, is the friendships. “Getting involved with something just made the college experience that much better,” he said.

Dennis Steenbergen head shotAs Steenbergen grew to love diving, his performance steadily improved.

“Early in my diving career I was happy if I made it through all six dives in the meet,” said Steenbergen. “My coach told me that my twister looked like I got shot in the middle of the air and somehow managed to float around and put it in the water.”

As a freshman he received twos or threes on his dives but grew to be a more consistent diver, by scoring solid fives and above. He also upped the degree of difficulty in his dives. Initially, in six-dive competitions, Steenbergen never broke 200 points. He was later able achieve this mark due in large part to his proficiency at the inward one and a half.

“It is my money dive. It is the one that when I first started doing dives I could do well. And once you get better you just add more rotations,” said Steenbergen.

This year Steenbergen competed on both the one- and the three-meter boards at the MIAA conference meet, qualifying for the finals with the top performers.

“That was a really great experience. The fact that I was able to dive in the evening gave me a great sense of accomplishment and just the honor to say I made it this far,” said Steenbergen, “Looking back there was no way I ever would have expected that.” He placed fourth on the one-meter board and sixth on three-meter.

Steenbergen has no regrets about his diving experiences: great times with fellow novice diver senior Jordan Squires as underclassmen, shopping for his first Speedo with Chong, and the lessons he learned under the tutelage of coach Aaron Paskvan for the past three years.

“He (Paskvan) was able to articulate how I should go about changing and improving my dives. He was a great motivator and would push me to try new things,” said Steenbergen. “Sometimes that was a good thing, and sometimes I’d end up smacking on my back.”

Thanks to the new state-of-the-art bubbler system in the new Venema Aquatic Center, though, back smacking is not as painful as it once was. Steenbergen is grateful to the donors, including Thelma Venema, who helped make the new pool a reality.

“We feel like kings and queens in this new place,” said Steenbergen, “All I can say is that I am thankful that I was able to compete and practice in it for a short time. The new pool is sweet.” Steenbergen, who will complete his five-year accounting program a bit early this December, encourages incoming freshmen to give diving a try.

“What do you have to lose really?” he said. “Just try to get involved.”

See the Men's Swimming and Diving Web site.