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Competition pushes swim teammates to new levels
By Jeff Febus

Emily RobertsOver the last four years, Emily Roberts, pictured at right, and Maggie Vail have not had to look far for someone to push them on the Calvin women’s swimming and diving team. Both premier breaststroke competitors, Vail and Roberts arrived at Calvin during the same year and have since worked to push each other in a positive fashion.

A native of DeKalb, Ill., Roberts is the school- and MIAA-record holder in the 100 breaststroke and a threetime NCAA III All-American in the event. A native of Portage, Mich., Vail is the school- and MIAA-record holder in the 200 breaststroke and was an NCAA III All-American in the event in 2008. Both individuals also competed in the 200 IM with Roberts holding the school and MIAA record in the race.

The head-to-head competition between the two seniors has produced healthy results according to Calvin head coach Dan Gelderloos. “It was never a negative situation before, but I think last year was the first year that Maggie and Emily really enjoyed training and competing with each other,” said Gelderloos, during the season. “It took awhile because they are both competitors, and they don’t like to lose. But they have become great friends and have really learned to motivate each other. That works well and they are pushing each other to new levels.”

Maggie VailAt the 2009 MIAA championships, Roberts won the 200 IM with an MIAA- and school-record time of 2:06.55 with Vail, left, close behind with a time of 2:07.59. Roberts then won the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:02.72, which ranks as the second-fastest time in NCAA III women’s swimming history. Vail was second with a time of 1:04.66 that would have broken the previous MIAA record.

One night later, Vail broke an MIAA- and schoolrecord in winning the 200 breaststroke with a time of 2:19.89 while Roberts was third in a time of 2:22.64.

“When we were looking at who would swim what before the conference meet last year, there was some discussion of Emily not swimming in the 200 breaststroke but Maggie didn’t like that idea,” said Gelderloos. “She wanted Emily to be there in that race to help push her so we decided to leave Emily in that race and it turned out great.” For her efforts at the 2009 MIAA Championships, Roberts was named the MIAA’s Most Valuable Swimmer. Things took a new turn this year. At the 2010 MIAA Championships, Vail stepped forward, winning the 100 breaststroke (1:04.94), 200 breaststroke (2:21.54) and 200 IM (2:08.07) with Roberts finishing a close second in all three events. Vail was later named the MIAA’s Most Valuable Swimmer.

Maggie Vail headshotHaving a teammate like Roberts nearby is a big bonus according to Vail. “I swim so much faster when Emily is competing in one of the lanes near me,” said Vail. “She’s
much more vocal about her competitiveness and that just gets me fired up. Otherwise I might be just content to do my thing but she gets me going. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

Neither would Roberts, who has learned to appreciate having a talented teammate like Vail in her own events.“When I approach a race and I have her nearby on the blocks, it’s a comfort factor having her racing there with me,” said Roberts. “She is constantly pushing me in a positive way. We have become great friends—almost like sisters.”

Emily Roberts headshotRoberts is a business communications major possibly considering a career in advertising or interior design while Vail is majoring in social work. Both individuals have
nothing but positive things to say about their Calvin experience.

“I am very thankful for where I am,” said Roberts.

“I have had a fantastic time at Calvin.” Vail echoed.“My decision to come to Calvin was a little bit last minute but it has really worked out well and been a blessing,” added Vail. “I was looking for a school with a good social work program and Calvin’s (social work) program is outstanding. The Christian community and my experience as a swimmer have also been wonderful. I could not think of a better place to be.”