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Holstege Brothers Critical to Calvin Winter Sports Success

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

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By Jacob Kuyvenhoven

Athletic siblings are something that can bolster a sports team to the point of an unfair advantage.  There are sport-defining examples like Venus and Serena Williams, and smaller examples on seemingly every high school track and soccer team in existence.  Calvin College is no different, as the performances of junior Erik Holstege and freshman Eli Holstege have been instrumental in Calvin’s success so far this winter sports season on the track and swimming teams.

It’s not hard to trace Erik Holstege’s enrollment at Calvin and affinity for hurdling back to his father, Chris Holstege.  If you travel over to the Grand Rapids Christian High record boards just a few miles away you’ll still see his records up there, one of them “never to be broken,” Erik says.  In fact, Chris coming in 9th place and missing All-American by one spot three times in his career at Calvin is one of the things Erik says will motivate him to gain All-American honors in the outdoor decathlon.

Eli Holstege also mentions his father as a big inspiration to his athletic career, saying “he always liked to watch us succeed.  He stays in great shape and is very competitive, he could still run a 400 [meter dash] in 52 seconds into his 40s.”  Erik denies that there was any competition between him and Eli, though, saying “We’ve never really thought of it that way.  I’ve never begrudged the fact that his athletic abilities exceed mine.”

While Erik has always gravitated towards the track, Eli is unsure of what exactly caused him to stick with swimming, saying “I always preferred running with my brother instead of freezing my butt off in swimming practice.”  He just ended up sticking with it, mostly with the not-so-subtle encouragement of his mother.  But he eventually grew to love the sport, especially “when I began swimming year-round for coach Kyle Wilson.”

Erik’s decision to come to Calvin (the family hails from Keswick, Virginia) came from a pretty straightforward process: “I came to Calvin because it offered quality in all areas: Excellent academics, Christian community, and a reputable track team that ran at a level where I could be a contributing member,” he said.  “Also, my family has a bit of history here.” 

Although Erik knew he had what it took to be a major contributor for Calvin right away, the results were not what he was hoping for during his freshman year of competition.  His versatility allowed him to compete in a staggering seven events at the MIAA Jamboree, but he was only able to score in two events at the MIAA finals.  He knew he had to work to become more than just a jack of all trades.

Chalking up the year as a learning experience, Erik emerged with a new found motivation his sophomore year, culminating with an individual MIAA title in the 110 high hurdles, part of a 1-2-3 Calvin sweep in the event. 

Erik lists this as the highlight of his track career at Calvin, saying “I was beyond happy, because not only had I accomplished this year-long goal of winning the conference, but I had done it with these two great guys. I’ve never in my life felt so overjoyed.”  Later in the day, Calvin re-captured the MIAA team title.

This year, however, Erik is striving for more.  He still has a chance to qualify for the heptathlon at indoor nationals, and he hopes to get on the podium at outdoor nationals in the decathlon as an all-American.  Team still comes first, as Erik states he wants to win another MIAA team title first and foremost, and see a strong performance from the sprint squad of which he is a part.

He will have some help in outdoor track from his younger brother Eli, a freshman at Calvin who is coming off an impressive first season of swimming with the Knights, helping them capture their first MIAA title in school history.  He finished fifth in the 100 yard breaststroke, seventh in the 50 freestyle, and was a part of the winning 200 medley relay team.  He was also the top freshman in the conference in both of those individual events.

Eli didn’t buy into Calvin as quickly as his brother, and entered his visit to Calvin still unsure about where he wanted to enroll.  His mind was eventually changed by the strong family connection and Calvin’s stellar Venema Aquatic Center facility.  “It’s without a doubt one of the best pools I’ve ever seen”, he said.  “I was turned off by how bad the pools were at a lot of other colleges.  But Calvin had a brand new pool, a friendly and welcoming team, and a great coach.”

Eli says that the swimming season has completely validated his decision to come to Calvin, saying “Choosing to swim here was the best decision I’ve ever made.  I’ve never worked so hard, had so much fun, or been so happy to be a part of something.  There’s only one team that does it for the first time, and I am proud to have done it with such a great group of men.”

Whether in the pool or on the track, it’s hard to imagine Calvin winter racing without the Holsteges. 

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