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Persistence Pays Off for Calvin Swimmer

Sunday, June 02, 2013

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By Mitch Blankespoor

Calvin College senior swimmer Mark Rushlow recently concluded his collegiate swimming career at the MIAA swimming and diving championships, but Rushlow has learned much more than just how to swim faster during his four years at Calvin. 

As a senior at Northridge High School in Goshen, Ind., Rushlow visited Wheaton College (Ill.) with thoughts of attending college there as well as swimming for the Thunder. After deciding that Wheaton was not the place for him, Rushlow went home. A month later, he received a phone call from Calvin head swimming coach Dan Gelderloos. 

“I found out later that Wheaton had sent my information to other schools, and Dan was the first one to call,” he said.

Gelderloos kept in contact with Rushlow, and soon Rushlow found himself on Calvin’s campus for a visit. 

“I loved my visit to Calvin’s campus,” said Rushlow. “The pool was fantastic, and I enjoyed getting to know the team.”

His first year at Calvin was tough: Rushlow struggled in the classroom. The only thing that kept him going was swimming. 

“I got third in the 100 fly at the MIAA championships and made it to nationals with a B-Cut time my first year,” said Rushlow. “I didn’t swim a very smart race at nationals.”

Rushlow’s sophomore year was more of the same. He was still struggling with his academics, and his swimming slightly regressed. He finished second in the 100 fly at the MIAA championships despite swimming over a second slower than his freshman year. He did not make nationals.

“My sophomore year was a big struggle,” said Rushlow. “After its conclusion, I debated transferring.”

Rushlow thought about transferring to another school to focus solely on swimming.  After talking it over with Gelderloos and his parents, he decided to remain at Calvin.

Gelderloos took note of Rushlow’s struggles: “I knew he was one that has a lot inside him and needed a little push to get it out,” he said. “I’ll be honest, I took a little chance on him working for me over the summer after his sophomore year. Something just told me that this would be an opportunity to get him to use his talents in a public setting.”

The chance paid off. Rushlow drastically improved in the classroom while also dropping a full second in the MIAA championships. This earned him an A-Cut time and automatic qualification to nationals. 

“My parents always taught me once you start something, you finish it,” said Rushlow. “Dan was also extremely helpful in working through this process. He understood that everything was not about swimming. He was a big reason why things turned around my junior year.”

Said Gelderloos of Rushlow’s transformation: “I don’t know whether that [working for me] was what got the ball rolling or whether it was his teammates, but moving into his junior year, he grew up, he learned how to study, be accountable and even lead in his own way.”

Rushlow’s improvement in the classroom continued throughout his senior year. He will graduate this spring with a degree in business with an emphasis in marketing. Calvin’s men’s swimming and diving team enjoyed much success as well. Finishing fourth in the MIAA during Rushlow’s first three years, Calvin finished second his senior year—the best finish for the men in over 20 years.

“Looking back on it, it is crazy to think we barely had enough guys to field a varsity team a few years ago,” Rushlow said. “Coming from that all the way to finishing second in the conference is a phenomenal achievement.”

Rushlow won the MIAA championship in the 100 fly as well as being a part of the Knights’ 400-medley relay team, which also won the MIAA title. Neither event, despite earning B-Cut times, qualified for nationals. 

Rushlow completed his career as a three-time All-MIAA qualifier.

“It took me two years to really learn how to manage my time,” Rushlow said. “Now that my swimming career is done, I plan to finish my academic career strong.”

Rushlow plans on attending Grand Valley State University (Allendale, Mich.) to get an MBA upon graduation this May.

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