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Senior swimmer shapes course of program

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Ross BattocletteWhen Ross Battoclette and three pool-bound peers set foot on campus as freshmen, they could not have conceived of the difference four years would make.

The swim team they would inherit was, at best, in transition. In the locker room numbers were dwindling and, in the pool, the results were following suit. Unlike their female counterparts, who were in the middle of a now eight-year streak of claiming the conference championship, the men had much less to celebrate.

Battoclette came to Calvin the graduate of a small Montessori school in Cincinnati, Ohio. He began swimming at the age of six and did so competitively a year later. When Battoclette was just ten, his coach spurned the required age group to place Ross in the 100-yard freestyle with the 15-18 year olds.

“That race was the point that I knew I wanted to take swimming seriously,” Battoclette said.

Over the next half decade, Battoclette “learned to love the sport,” in spite of the rigorous training regimen. The pool became his escape, and, with the help of supportive parents, he maintained steady involvement in the sport.

When the time for a college decision came, Battoclette’s dedication paid dividends. He had scholarship offers from Division I and Division II schools. But Battoclette had his mind on something smaller, with a community closer to that of his high school. And swimming, though a large consideration in his decision, was still just one factor among many.

“I didn’t want swimming to be my sole focus for college. I also wanted to focus in all areas of my life, socially, academically and spiritually,” he said.

While visiting his older sister at Calvin, Battoclette found the community he was looking for. He resonated with Calvin’s multi-faceted atmosphere. Battoclette said his first days on campus “opened up my eyes to the culture of Calvin and assured me that my decision to come to Calvin was what God wanted.”

Freshman year, Battoclette, Greg Gorham, Luke Griffioen and Chris Shepperly walked into the recently opened Venema Aquatic Center, a part of the Spoelhof Fieldhouse Complex, determined to accelerate the rebuilding process.

Battoclette’s class banded together and embraced Coach Dan Gelderloos’ concept of “team swimming.” For Battoclette, the concept came alive his junior year.

“I don’t go to every practice for myself; I go because my teammates expect me to be there. I hold them accountable, and they hold me accountable,” he said.

Battoclette and his teammates carried that mindset into the 2012 conference meet, their last chance at team swimming. On the second night of the four-day meet, Battoclette anchored the 400-yard medley relay, consisting of Andrew Mitchell, Gorham and Mark Rushlow. Battoclette called the event “especially emotional.”

In Battoclette’s time at Calvin, no men’s relay team had finished better than fourth in the MIAA meet. But Battoclette, along with his relay members finished second overall with a school-record and NCAA B-cut time of 3:24.76.

Battoclette said later, of his post-race emotions: “It’s a feeling that is hard to explain and is probably one of the top moments of my swimming career.”

The relay would set the tone for a phenomenal weekend for Battoclette. He narrowed the gap for Calvin and won his leg of the 400-yard freestyle relay in the event’s final race and took first overall in the 200 freestyle. As a team, the Knights finished fourth and surpassed their highest ever score with 635.5 points. Coach Gelderloos credited his seniors for their role in making the weekend special.

“[The seniors] have been the backbone of this team for the last couple of years,” said Gelderloos.

Battoclette, in turn, credited his coach for inspiring the perseverance he found in his senior class: “He really helped the guys’ team look at the bigger picture, and now that it is my senior year me, Chris, Greg and Luke couldn’t be more proud of the team we have become.”

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