|'Crazy race' nets senior All-American honors
By Jeff Febus
One year after enduring an agonizing national meet, Calvin College men's track team senior Nate DeHaan was able to emerge with all smiles.
At the 2009 NCAA III Outdoor Track and Field Championships, the Grand Rapids South Christian High School graduate claimed an All-America berth in the 3,000 meter steeplechase, finishing sixth with a career-best time of 9:06. A year prior, DeHaan competed in the event but lost one of his shoes after being spiked on the opening lap. DeHaan ran the rest of the way with only one shoe on. Despite the mishap, DeHaan ran near the top of the pack for all but the final lap-and-a-half when he faded back to 12th place because of fatigue and pounding on his bare foot.
At the 2009 NCAA III Championships, DeHaan stayed out of trouble, running a strong race from start to finish becoming the eighth individual in Calvin men's track and field history to earn All-America honors in the steeplechase.
"I could not be any prouder than I am right now of Nate DeHaan," said Calvin distance coach Brian Diemer, himself a Grand Rapids South Christian High School graduate and a three-time U.S. Olympian in the steeplechase. "Nate runs with so much heart and passion that you just can't help but root for him."
DeHaan shrugged off the circumstances of his race at the 2008 national meet. "The steeplechase is kind of a crazy race where anything can happen," said DeHaan. "Sometimes you catch a bad break but the only thing to do is to forget about it and move on to the next race. In running, you learn a lot more from your disappointments than you do from your successes. Last year's race put my running goals into proper perspective. My primary goal as a runner at Calvin is to glorify God in all that I do including my running on the track. If I go out, give it my best shot and give God all the glory, then I've done what I've supposed to do."
DeHaan also thanked Diemer and fellow Calvin distance coach Al Hoekstra for their instruction. "I could not have accomplished what I have at Calvin without Brian and Al. Brian was the one who encouraged me to give the steeplechase a try, and obviously he knows a thing or two about the race. Al has given me motivation and courage to give it my best."
DeHaan became interested in the steeplechase as a first-year runner on the Calvin men's track and field team. "Brian (Diemer) asked if anyone was interested in running the steeplechase. It sounded like fun so I gave it a try," said DeHaan. "I fell in love with the race right away. Having the barriers and the water jump in the race makes it that much more interesting."
The All-America berth in the steeplechase was the second of DeHaan's career at Calvin as he also garnered All-America honors as a sophomore at the 2006 NCAA III Cross Country Championships with a 31st place finish, helping Calvin win the national championship.
"I grew up real quick being a member of the Calvin cross country team," said DeHaan, a three-time All-MIAA cross country selection. "When you run in the Calvin cross country program, your teammates and your coaches build you up into a leader. I learned a lot from the upperclassmen and coaches, not only how to be a great runner but also how to be a strong leader in the community and in the classroom."
As a student-athlete at Calvin, DeHaan has been a member of the school's Student-Athlete Advisory Council. As a member of SAAC, he has led student-athlete groups volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and with food banks in the Grand Rapids Heartside district.
"Learning how to serve in the community is an important thing," said DeHaan. "I think the most enjoyable aspect is serving with fellow student-athletes from other teams at Calvin. We not only help the community, but we also build up our own community at Calvin by volunteering together."
An education/integrated science major with a biology minor, DeHaan would like to teach at either the middle school or high school level. He will return to Calvin in the fall to student teach. "I really love working with kids and I really love science," said DeHaan. "To be able to combine those two things is really cool. After I graduate I'll just see where the Lord takes me."
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