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Shift in Athletic Seasons Pays off For Calvin Distance Runner

Sunday, June 02, 2013

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By Mark DeHaan

It was a shift in athletic seasons that allowed junior Nicole Michmerhuizen to first try cross country as a sophomore at Holland (Mich.) Christian High School. When Michigan moved girls high school basketball from the fall to the winter in 2007, Michmerhuizen, a basketball player in her freshman year, decided to pick up cross country as her fall sport. 

“When the sports seasons changed across Michigan, I was no longer involved in a fall sport, and I decided it would be fun to give cross country a try,” said Michmerhuizen. “I didn’t have a particularly good reason to start running—it is crazy for me to look back on that decision now because I see that God had so much more in store for me that I didn’t know.”

Michmerhuizen was all-conference honorable mention her first season running cross country in high school. Michmerhuizen continued to run, and when senior year rolled around, decided that Calvin would be the best fit for both her athletics and academics.

“My decision to come to Calvin was an easy one. After visiting, I knew that Calvin was the right place for me,” she said.

Michmerhuizen is an engineering and biochemistry double major. When she initially came to Calvin, she could not decide between chemical engineering and medicine. Instead of choosing one or the other, she decided to choose both.

“Eventually, I combined my interests in problem solving and in health to pursue majors in chemical engineering and biochemistry. I hope to use both of these areas by one day obtaining a job related to the design and development of pharmaceutical products.”

After graduation, Michmerhuizen plans to attend graduate school to earn a degree in pharmaceutical science. Michmerhuizen hopes this degree will allow her to secure a position in pharmaceutical research and development.

While Michmerhuizen’s academic plate was more than full, she struggled to excel in her athletics the same way she did in the classroom. It wasn’t until track last spring when things really began to click for the junior.

“After being disappointed with my 2011 cross country season, I took a new perspective in the spring.  I tried to remember the reasons why I choose to run at Calvin—for God, for my teammates and because I love the sport,” said Michmerhuizen. “While a lot of hard work went into my track season, this mental shift brought me to turn from events of the fall and allowed me greater joy and success in running.”

All the hard work paid off for Michmerhuizen as she earned the MIAA individual title in the 10,000 meters while finishing second in the 5,000 meters behind teammate Alyssa Penning. Michmerhuizen went on to compete in the 5,000 meters at the NCAA III Championships in California last May, finishing 19th with a time of 17:52.88. Michmerhuizen’s effort in the 5,000 meters, along with her strong standing in the classroom, earned her third-team Academic All-American honors in track last spring.

“I feel so blessed to have received this honor—it was not something that I was expecting in any way,” said Michmerhuizen.

Michmerhuizen’s running success translated to the cross country course this fall. Running at the MIAA Championships hosted by Albion, Michmerhuizen ran the women’s 5k in 21:49, good for first place individually. With the first-place finish, Michmerhuizen was named the MIAA’s Most Valuable Runner.

“I have tried to continue to build on what I was able to accomplish last spring, keeping the same perspective. I have also tried to use my teammates as motivation to succeed—I don’t want my own selfish ambitions to get in the way of our team goals.”

Although not the most highly touted runner coming out of high school, Michmerhuizen’s hard work has paid off as she has become one of the top runners in Division III. Calvin cross country head coach Brian Diemer cites Michmerhuizen’s ability to push herself as a reason she has improved so much.

“At the conference meet, I kept saying to her that she has the mind to grind. She gets into a tough pace and she can sustain for a long, long time,” said Diemer. “(Nicole) has just blossomed here at Calvin. She has gained so much confidence in her running—it has really been neat to see her come alive.”

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