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Samantha Klaasen Continues to Excel on Diving Boards for Calvin

Monday, January 09, 2012

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By Sports Information Student Assistant Mark DeHaan

After winning MIAA Most Valuable Diver and posting NCAA qualifying scores in her sophomore year, Samantha Klaasen was hoping for an invitation to dive at the NCAA Championships. Unfortunately, Klaasen was not invited to the meet limited to 22 divers nation-wide. The disappointment was initially a set-back for the Holland Christian graduate but has since turned into motivation to dive stronger in her junior year.

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

Along with diving at Calvin, Klaasen is studying to become a Special Education major. Klaasen plans on working as a Special Education teacher with K-12 certification after graduation, but is not yet sure whether she wants to work with younger or older students.

Klaasen follows in the footsteps of ‘05 Holland Christian graduate and ‘09 Calvin graduate Erica Deur. Deur was invited to the NCAA Championships all four years at Calvin and won the National Championship in 2007 and 2009 in the 1 meter board, setting a National Record in her senior year. Klaasen says 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 Klaasen would have to get to know her coach for the first time in her diving career. Aaron Paskvan and Joe O’Brien are the diving coaches at Calvin, and 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 experiences. I have been blessed to have three coaches in my life that I respect deeply.”

Coming off a season where she was named MIAA’s Most Valuable Women’s Diver, Klaasen admits there is some pressure to repeat. Instead of focusing on the repeat, though, Klaasen hopes to continue to focus on doing her best and continually improving her dives. “There’s a little bit of pressure, yes. But mainly I am going to do my best this year and see what happens,” said Klaasen. “I am honored to have received the MVD award once and I hope that I can do it again, but we’ll see!”

Just like Deur, Klaasen excels in both the 1 meter and 3 meter boards. In high school, Klaasen only dove the 1 meter board, so she prefers the 1 meter, but says the 3 meter dive is growing on her. “The three-meter board allows for a lot more time in the air to complete dives. So, I do harder dives off 3 meter. These can be fun, but also scary. I guess it just depends on the day which one I prefer.”

In both her freshmen and sophomore 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 in 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 two years and have not been selected for the meet either year,” said Klaasen. “Both years I was very frustrated 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 this year. “At first, when I found out (I didn’t make the cut), it was quite a setback,” commented Klaasen. “It is difficult to work so hard for something and still not be able to compete at a national level. However, though I am still quite frustrated about the process, I am extremely motivated to go to the NCAAs this year. I am working toward sending in a tape that the judges can’t help but select.” In 2013, a new process involving regional meets will be put in place, just in time for Klaasen’s senior year.

During Christmas break, Klaasen along with the rest of the Calvin swimming and diving team, will be heading to Key Largo, FL for a training trip where they will train four hours a day. Klaasen says the trip, although exhausting, does a lot for team chemistry and often boosts performances later in the season. “Our team has several freshmen on it and we have lost several big personalities from last year’s team. So, it will be good for the team’s chemistry to take a trip together. After the training trip, the team always seems so much closer and knit and that makes us swim and diving even better as we become a closer team.”

Named a captain this season, Klaasen says she wants to be seen as “a very competent and selfless leader.” Personally, Klaasen hopes to continue improving her dives while competing for back-to-back MIAA Championships and making the NCAA cut.

In order to make the cut, Klaasen needs to keep an even balance between studying and training. Calvin swim and dive Head Coach Dan Gelderloos sees Klaasen as one who is able to balance both aspects while excelling 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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