As West Michigan’s weather has warmed and midterms have passed, inklings of spring have arrived at Hope College’s campus. Spring brings about new sport seasons with exciting new policies for student attendance. It also marks the end of winter sports, highlighting a multitude of exemplary Hope athletes.
Slightly earlier this season, the Hope women’s swim and dive team brought home the MIAA championship title. The attention has now turned to the men’s team as they compete in the highly competitive championship, with both Calvin University and Adrian College sporting strong and experienced teams.
Hope swimmers brought a stellar performance featuring both senior and freshman swimmers alike. Several event championships were claimed along with breaking multiple records. Winning a total of four events, Hope placed second in the meet with 906 points behind first place Calvin University with 1,054 points and ahead of Albion College’s 738.5 points.
A special performance was delivered by 17-year-old freshman Ben Catton (’24) a graduate of Holland Christian High School. Catton is studying on the pre-law track and this is his debut year swimming collegiately. Catton swam in the 100-yard butterfly preliminaries at the championships, clocking a time of 48.37 seconds and winning first place, first seed for the finals, and claiming a new Hope record. The previous record was held by Ryan Nelis, who swam a 48.88s in 2009. In the finals, Catton earned a slightly slower time of 50.42 seconds, thus earning runner up to Calvin sophomore Noah Holstege (’23) who finished at 49.15 seconds. Catton described the feeling of claiming the record during the prelims:
“It was a great feeling, especially all within my first year. When I touched that wall and looked up I was honestly overwhelmed. I looked over at the area where my teammates were. They were all celebrating and going crazy. Right at that moment I wanted to be outside of the pool and celebrating with them.”
The Hope men’s team had a great season with a successful ending as well. The swimming community at Hope is known for both its closeness and unique atmosphere in the realm of college athletics. Catton confirmed this:
“HMS (Hope Men’s Swimming) is something super special. It really is a brotherhood and I have felt genuine comradery with all of my teammates. Obviously due to COVID this year, things have been different, but as a team we have really made the most of it.”
Breaking a record as a freshman, especially at the age of 17 and in the realm of swimming, is virtually unheard of in college sports. When asked about his origin of success, Catton humbly attributed his performance as a product of support and gratitude:
“It’s hard to pinpoint specifically one thing where I derive my swimming from. At the end of the day, it’s the people around me — from my teammates to my coaches. And also my family. They are a huge part of who I am and what I do.”
Not only is Catton’s young age impressive, it also creates a unique long-term opportunity for him to continue to grow as a swimmer and hopefully help lead his team when his time comes. Catton described his hope for the future of HMS:
“Bringing home the MIAA championship title for Hope’s team is a huge goal that I know we can attain. But also looking forward on a big scale. I think our team can become known on the national level. We have a great team all around with plenty of skill and hard work. Growing as a team and improving is extremely doable over the next 4 years.”
The closure of the swim season for Catton and his team brings about the spring sports season (the first time since 2019), allowing for a new set of sports and new unique opportunities.
This season is establishing a new policy and environment for athletics, with the Hope athletic department and administration deciding to allow limited student and immediate family attendance at sporting events. This decision came about after the MIAA President enacted institutional discretionary for athletic attendance protocols. The only guidelines state that college policies must adhere to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) policies and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) current orders.
Policies for competition attendance include physically distanced seating and pre-reserved attendance only, which is consistent for both indoor and outdoor competitions. The majority of games will only allow for immediate family members of athletes and a permitted four tickets per each athlete. Student attendance will also be permitted with specially approved Hope College designation.
Spring fever relief can be provided by the following student athletics opportunities this week. This week’s pre-reserved student attendance will be permitted at the women’s softball doubleheader on March 23 at 3 p.m.; the women’s volleyball game on March 26 at 6:30 p.m.; the women’s soccer game on March 26 at 7 p.m.; and the men’s baseball doubleheader on March 27 at 1 p.m.