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Determined diver sets goal for 2013

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Samantha KlaasenAfter winning MIAA Most Valuable Diver and posting NCAA qualifying scores in her sophomore and junior year, Samantha Klaasen was hoping for an invitation to dive at the NCAA Championships. Unfortunately, she was not invited to the meet, limited to 22 divers nationwide, this season or last. The disappointment was initially a setback for the Holland (Mich.) Christian graduate but has since turned into motivation to dive stronger in her senior year.

Klaasen was originally planning to attend a larger university; she came to a Calvin diving practice to solidify her decision. She said she fell in love with Calvin during the visit and “felt like it was where I was supposed to be.”

She follows 2005 Holland Christian graduate and 2009 Calvin graduate Erica Deur. Deur won the national championship in 2007 and 2009 in the onemeter board, setting a national record her senior year. Klaasen said that she is “not exactly following in the same footsteps as her, but I hope to strive for high goals just as she did.”

While at Holland Christian, Klaasen was coached by her father, Rich Klaasen. Moving to the college level was different for Klaasen not only in the higher level of competition, but also in that she would have to get to know her coach for the first time in her diving career. Aaron Paskvan is the diving coach at Calvin and also receives assistance from longtime area diving coach Joe O’Brien. Klaasen says she has loved getting to know both of them. “Both coaches are great people and extremely knowledgeable about the sport of diving. Being coached by my dad in high school was also an awesome learning experience. I have been blessed to have three coaches in my life that I respect deeply.”

Coming off a sophomore season where she was named the MIAA’s Most Valuable Women’s Diver, Klaasen admits there was some pressure to repeat. Instead of focusing on the repeat though, Klaasen continued to focus on doing her best and continually improving her dives. “There was a little bit of pressure, yes. But mainly I my goal was to do my best this year and see what happens,” said Klaasen.

Klaasen’s best was good enough this year to allow her to repeat as MIAA champion on the one-meter board with a score of 433.30 points while placing second on the three-meter board with a score of 418.95. Her efforts helped Calvin capture its eighth straight MIAA women’s swimming and diving title.

In her first three years, Klaasen posted NCAA qualifying scores. The system is different from many others in college athletics in that scores must be posted twice, then a video of the meets are sent to a committee of judges who view the tapes and then rank the divers—the top 22 divers are then invited to the NCAA meet. “I have made these cuts and sent in videos for the past three years and have not been selected for the meet,” said Klaasen. “It has been frustrating as I feel that I could have done well at the meet if only I had the chance to be there.”

Klaasen says that not making the cut is motivation to work harder next year. “It is difficult to work so hard for something and still not be able to compete at a national level,” she said. “However, though I am still quite frustrated about the process, I am extremely motivated to go to the NCAAs next year. In 2013, a new process involving regional meets will be put in place, just in time for Klaasen’s senior year.

Named a captain this season, Klaasen said her goal is to be “a very competent and selfless leader.” Klaasen hopes to continue improving her dives while competing for back-to-back MIAA Championships and making the NCAA cut.

Klaasen, a special education major, has also earned a spot on the MIAA Academic Honor Roll each of her first two years.

Calvin head swim coach Dan Gelderloos sees Klaasen as one who is able to balance both aspects while exceling at each. “Sam is a great person who works hard in all areas of her life. She is going to find success because of how she balances her life.”

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