A very fast 25 years

Brian Diemer and Al Hoekstra, coaches and dynamic duo


Winter 2011

It has been 25 years since the dynamic duo of Brian Diemer and Al Hoekstra first combined their knowledge, skills and energy to lead Calvin’s cross country and track runners.

There’s Diemer, the soft-spoken Olympic bronze-medal steeplechaser, and an encyclopedia of training technique. And there’s Hoekstra, the gregarious recruiter and motivator. Together, they’ve led the Knights to a record of stunning athletic accomplishment—achievements that continue after graduation for some of the runners.

While at Calvin, Diemer has led the Calvin men’s cross country team to 24 MIAA titles, 22 Great Lakes Regional crowns, 11 top-four national finishes, four national runner-up berths and four national titles. With 24 league titles under his leadership, he is the winningest coach in MIAA men’s cross country history. Diemer has also led the Calvin women’s cross country team to five MIAA titles, four Great Lakes Regional crowns and four top-four national finishes. With a total of 29 combined MIAA titles under his watch, Diemer is currently third on the list of league titles for MIAA coaches.

While at Calvin, Hoekstra has helped Calvin capture 24 MIAA titles in men’s cross country and 22 MIAA titles in women’s cross country. He has also been a part of all six national titles in Calvin cross country history—two in women’s cross country and four in men’s cross country.

At this writing, Calvin is again nationally ranked—third in men’s cross country and seventh in women’s cross country.

And these are smart runners: The two teams combined during have landed on the College Cross Country Coaches All-Academic List (combined 3.1 GPA or higher) 17 consecutive years. Both teams have earned that distinction.

These two would be the first to say that the stage for success was set by two other excellent Calvin coaches, Dave Tuuk and Nancy Meyer.

Tuuk is the godfather of all things related to cross country and track at Calvin, coaching both sports for 28 years and developing the foundation for the current success. Meyer took the baton from Tuuk, coached for 20 years and led the women’s cross country program to incredible heights, including back-to-back national championships in 1998 and 1999.

I mentioned the continued success of Calvin’s runners as alumni. This year, two cross alumni qualified for the Olympic Trials in the marathon: Paul Petersen ’01 at Boston and Jed Christiansen ’10 at Chicago. Christina Overbeck ’08 just missed qualifying at Chicago.

But what’s most impressive about these past 25 years of Diemer-Hoekstra is the relentless emphasis of running not only a fast race, but a lifelong spiritual journey—one that has them “pressing on toward the goal to win the prize” that God has set out for each of us (Phil. 3:13-14).

It is apparent when observing these athletes that there is something special about them, and in this instance it isn’t about how quickly they cover territory. They are not about themselves and in some ways not even about their team. There’s a higher calling that engages body and spirit. It is inspiring to be around these student athletes.

Happy silver anniversary, Brian and Al! Thank you, and may you and the fleet-of-feet Knights “press on” with joy.