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Cross country a natural for former soccer player

Sunday, January 01, 2012

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By Mitch Blankespoor

A native of Homer Glen, Ill., senior Jodi Hoekstra started and will end her athletic career as a Knight: first as a Chicago Christian High School Knight on the women’s tennis and track and field teams and most recently at Calvin on the women’s cross country team and track and field teams. In between, she spent some time as a Troll.

Hoekstra first started running cross country at Trinity Christian College (Palos Heights, Ill.).

“I was not able to run cross country in high school because Chicago Christian didn’t have a team. Trinity offered me a scholarship to run track and field as well as cross-country. Plus my brothers went there,” Hoekstra recalled.

After her first year at Trinity, Hoekstra felt like something wasn’t quite right. “My dad knew (Calvin cross country coach) Al Hoekstra well from running cross country with him in high school. I went to visit some friends In Michigan after a race. On the way home, my parents asked me to consider Calvin. After a couple weeks of thought and prayer, I felt God calling me to attend Calvin.”

As a sophomore, Hoekstra did not expect to crack the top seven. She did that and more finishing ninth at the MIAA Championships and 17th in the Great Lakes Region.

As a junior, Hoekstra improved even more, winning the MIAA Championships, finishing fourth at the Great Lakes Region hosted by Hope College, and finishing as the top Calvin runner at nationals taking 43rd place. She was also named the MIAA’s most valuable runner for the first time in her career.

“I felt more pressure as a junior being one of only two returners. Looking back on my first two years running at Calvin, I put my personal goals in from of the team’s goals. I wanted to be the best runner at Calvin College,” Hoekstra reflected.

Her junior year did not end on a high note. She finished 21st in the 5,000 meter run at the NCAA III track and field national championships. “That race refocused me for my senior year of cross country. I wanted to focus on the mental part of running, run for the team first and give it all I had,” Hoekstra said, reflecting on her thoughts before this season started.

Her re-evaluation helped both the team and her own performance. She placed first in both MIAA Jamborees en route to her second MIAA most valuable runner honor and third-time first team All-MIAA. At the regional meet held in Oberlin, Ohio, Hoekstra placed second. At the final cross country meet of her career, Hoekstra achieved one of her goals earning NCAA III All-American honors finishing 14th.

“That was one my goals ever since I started running in this program,”Hoekstra said.“I could not have done this without my teammates or coaches.

“Coach (Brian) Diemer and Coach Hoekstra have made a huge difference for me. I have improved by leaps and bounds since coming to Calvin. Not only have they helped me learn how to train and heal injuries, they have taught me what it means to run a smart race. They have also taught me lessons outside of sport.”

Hoekstra is a kinesiology major hoping to get into the field of exercise physiology or personal training. She will run indoor track this winter and graduate in May.

As for her career as a student-athlete at Calvin, Hoekstra said that her time as a Calvin Knight has been life changing.

“It has become such a part of who I am. It has pushed me to pursue things that I didn’t think I could ever really achieve,” Hoekstra said. “God has blessed me in so many ways, and running is just one of them.”

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