Story by Eva Dean Folkert/Photos by Lynne Powe
Emma Schaefer, pictured left, added to her already impressive Hope College swim résumé in a significant way on Saturday. The junior from DeWitt (Saint Johns HS) earned the 2020 Most Valuable Swimmer Award after she won three individual events (200 individual medley, 100 and 200 breaststroke with NCAA B-cuts in each) as well as teamed up on two winning relays (800 freestyle and 400 medley) during the 2020 MIAA Men's and Women's Swimming and Diving Championships.
"I'm so excited and proud of Emma," said head coach Jake Taber. "She sets the tone for her team every day at practice and motivates her teammates. She has worked incredibly hard to be where she is today. Emma has earned every ounce of this award."
The decorated swimmer, her coach and teammates wished there could have been one event win more.
Going into the evening's last race — the 400-yard freestyle relay — at Calvin University's Venema Aquatic Center, the Flying Dutch were tied with Calvin. Winner of the relay would take the team title. Which is what the Knights did, thus winning this year's MIAA championship with 867 points.
Hope finished second in the league with 857 points, followed by Albion with 819, Kalamazoo with 558, Alma with 246 and Olivet 218.
"I was happy about our fight and the way we approached each day and each session," Taber said. "We had an incredible environment at the meet and we left it all in the pool. I could not have asked for anything more. It was a just fun meet, it was a great meet. At the end of the day, we fed off the excitement and performed to the best of our abilities, and I'm so proud of this group."
Besides Schaefer's Saturday night win in the 200 breaststroke with a time of 2:20.78, sophomore Emma Engle of Kalamazoo (Home School), pictured right, was victorious in the 1650 freestyle by clocking a 17:41.14.
Engle was closely followed by two other teammates in that distance event: sophomore Paige Kuhn of Dorr (Hamilton HS) took third in 17:59.02 and, in less than a finger snap later, sophomore Abigail LaDuke of Holland (West Ottawa HS) touched the wall in fourth in 17:59.04.
Hope had a number of quality finishes in other finals races.
- Senior Erin Emmert of Grand Blanc (Flint Powers HS) was a silver medalist in the 200 butterfly with a time of 2:07.40 and a bronze medalist in the 200 backstroke, touching in in 2:06.27;
- Junior Hope Reynolds of Exon, Pennsylvania (Villa Maria Academy) finished fifth with a time of 2:08.26 in the 200 backstroke;
- In the 100 freestyle, freshman Tarah Lang of Marshall (Marshall HS) took fourth place in 53.34, while freshman Emily Kurt of South Lyon (South Lyon HS) claimed sixth in 53.54;
- In the 200 breaststroke, three other Hope swimmers joined Schaefer on the awards stand: sophomore Aubrey East of Farmington (North Farmington HS) was fourth in 2:27.55; senior Paula Nolte of Elmhurst, Illinois (York Community HS) finished fifth in 2:27.58, and freshman Avery Covert of South Lyon (South Lyon HS) took eighth in 2:31.69;
- In the 400 freestyle relay, Jenna Kloosterman of Hamilton (Hamilton HS), Kurt, Schaefer and Lang recorded a third-place time of 3:33.15.
Consolation heat contributors were:
- Senior Alison Sobkowski of Portage, Indiana (Portage HS) with a 12th-place time of 18:42.98 in the 1650 freestyle;
- Kloosterman took 10th in the 100 freestyle with a time of 54.19;
- Senior Erica Slenk of Holland (Holland Christian HS) swam to ninth in 2:32.53 in the 100 breaststroke;
- Freshman Macey Mayer of San Antonio, Texas (Johnson HS) finished 11th (2:13.89) and freshman Alyssa Kerkman of South Bend, Indiana (South Bend HS) took 12th (2:14.66) in the 200 butterfly.