Story by Eva Dean Folkert/Photos by Lynne Powe
Sophomore Kamaron Wilcox is Hope College's first-ever MIAA Most Valuable Diver. By winning the 3-meter diving event on Saturday, to go along with his 1-meter title on Thursday, Wilcox of Grand Rapids (Forest Hills Central HS) swept the diving titles at the 2020 MIAA Men's and Women's Swimming and Diving Championships.
Wilcox, pictured left, finished out the meet's competition on Saturday with 474.65 points on the 3-meter board; on Thursday, he won the 1-meter event with 447.60 points. Both totals qualified him for NCAA regional-cut status.
"After Kam gets recognized as the Most Valuable Diver, we're huggin' it out, and I said, 'Who would have thought a year ago, that the guy who had not dived on a team before coming to Hope (he was a trampolinist), who was messing around on the boards in the Dow and then was encouraged to join us, would one day be Hope's first Most Valuable Diver. And he goes, 'Man, I was just thinking that same thing too!,'" described head coach Jake Taber.
"Kam's success is a testament to his hard work and focus. He committed himself to being a great diver, and Coach (Rebecca) Garza has done a great job to help him, and the other divers too, get there. He went out and dove the way he is capable. And it looked like he was having fun too and that makes a huge difference."
Competing at Calvin University's Venema Aquatic Center, the Flying Dutchmen finished in third place in the MIAA with 693 points. Albion College is the 2020 league champion with 933.5points while Calvin University is second with 838 points. Rounding out the standings are Kalamazoo College in fourth with 546.5 points, Olivet College in fifth with 330, and Alma College in sixth with 187.
"The men were pretty darn good in this meet, right from the start with a MIAA and school record," added Taber. "They had a succession of great races, great competition. They had a mentality that they could swim with anybody, and they stepped up on the blocks and gave it their all. We saw a lot of awesome things, and I couldn't be prouder."
Hope crowned one more league champion on Saturday. Freshman Bailey Smith Battle Creek (Lakeview HS), pictured right, swam to his first individual MIAA title in the 1650-yard freestyle with a time of 16:02.91, good for an NCAA B-cut.
Also achieving an NCAA B-cut was Gabe Boonstra. The freshman from Hudsonville (Hudsonville HS) clocked a 44.93 and took second place in the 100 freestyle.
The Flying Dutchmen showed great depth in 1650 freestyle. Besides Smith's win in the event, four other Hope swimmers contributed points in the mile-long swim: freshman Theo Duong of Kentwood (East Kentwood HS) took third place in 16:25.46; freshman Brant Assink of Holland (Holland Christian HS) claimed sixth in 16:36.68; senior Jeff Engle of Kalamazoo (Home School) was 10th in 17:39.42; and, freshman Collin Kline of Hudsonville (Hudsonville HS) finished 12th in 17:56.40.
Other finals heat finishers were:
- Senior Daniel Clyde of Ann Arbor (Huron HS) taking fifth place (1:54.90) and freshman JT Nissen of Spring, Texas finishing sixth place (1:55.43) in the 200 butterfly;
- Freshman Jack Muller of Queensland, Australia (Meridan State) clocking a 2:06.48 for fourth place in the 200 breaststroke;
- Freshman diver Spencer Cahill of Kentwood (East Kentwood HS) earning 433.20 points for fourth place on the 3-meter board, and
- Nissen, Boonstra, Smith and Clyde with second place in the 400 freestyle relay with a time of 3:03.11
Consolation heat contributors were:
- Engle in 11th place (2:00.41), senior Seth Costello of Williamston (Williamston HS) in 13th (2:02.36), and Kline in 14th (2:06.25) in the 200 backstroke;
- Freshman Jackson Uyl of DeWitt (DeWitt HS) who took 15th with a time of 48.19 in the 100 freestyle;
- Freshman Will Benner of State College, Pennsylvania (State College Area HS) and sophomore Liam Faber of Grand Rapids (East Kentwood HS) who claimed 11th (2:13.89) and 13th (2:14.31), respectively, in the 200 breaststroke;
- Freshman Andre Aro of Kalamazoo (Kalamazoo Central HS) who finished 11th by touching the wall in 2:00.78 in the 200 butterfly, and,
- Aro, Uyl, Muller and senior Keon Rick of Spring Lake (Spring Lake HS) with 11th place in the 400 freestyle relay with a time of 3:11.75.