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Calvin Cross Country Runners Find a Balance Between Athletics and Academics

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

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Finding a balance between the demands of academics and athletics is never easy for a collegiate student-athlete but Calvin College cross country runners Jake Christiansen and Ben Lewis have found a way to do just that.

Earlier this fall, the two Calvin student-athletes led a Calvin mathematics department colloquium detailing their summer research efforts under the guidance of Calvin mathematics professor Dr. Todd Kapitula. Christiansen and Lewis were able to study under Kapitula during the summer months thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Both students presented abstracts on eigenvalue problems. Lewis focused specifically on the Evans function while Christiansen focused on functions taking place in different dimensions which are related to quantum mechanics.

A junior from South Haven, Michigan, Lewis is a mathematics major planning on attending graduate school. A native of New Ipswich, New Hampshire, Christiansen is an education major with an emphasis in mathematics.  Both individuals are Dean’s List students at Calvin and have been regular members of the MIAA Academic Honor Roll. They are also key members of a Calvin men’s cross country team currently ranked eighth nationally. One of three Christiansen brothers to run at Calvin, Jake was the MIAA champion in the 5,000 meter run at the 2010 MIAA Track and Field Championships last spring.

Staying on top of their studies while handling the rigors of demanding sport is challenging said Lewis and Christiansen but it can be done.

“You have to be organized and focused,” said Lewis on his way to cross country practice minutes after giving his presentation at the colloquium. “I chose Calvin because it was a school that allowed me to balance my spiritual life with my academic and athletic pursuits.”

Christiansen has battled injuries on and off throughout his Calvin running career but has persevered to crack Calvin’s top seven this fall while also excelling in the classroom. “I think distance running and academics go hand-in-hand,” said Christiansen. “You need discipline in both areas and once you have discipline in one area, it’s not difficult to carry that same discipline over into another area.”

During the summer months, the duo split their time between the laboratory and pavement. During the day, they worked diligently under the tutelage of Kapitula. At night, they churned out long miles on the city streets together, often putting in weeks of 70 miles or more while mixing in occasional cross training on the bike or in the pool.

Now with the semester underway, Christiansen and Lewis have had the opportunity to interact with their student peers in the mathematics department, attending colloquiums led by other math students while also leading their own.

Now in their 45th year of existence at Calvin, the colloquium presentations take place every Thursday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. at the Calvin mathematics department. Math majors are required to attend the colloquiums for two semesters of their academic careers. 

“The colloquium gives our students a chance to see how mathematics work in the real world,” said Calvin mathematics department chairperson Dr. Mike Stob. “We bring in speakers from outside our campus and we have some of our own students and faculty present as well.”

Our mathematics majors are doing all kinds of things outside the mathematics classroom,” said Stob. “That’s the wide experience of a college education. It’s not just the 15 hours or so per week that you spend in a classroom. It’s the activities you can be involved in while developing your talents. Jake and Ben are just two examples of the many students who come through our department who excel in a variety of areas.”

Ben Lewis Audio Interview

Jake Christiansen Audio Interview

Professor Mike Stob Audio Interview

Professor Todd Kapitula Audio Interview

 

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