As winter sports concluded this year, final meets, games and championships took place, giving Hope College athletes their final chances to compete. As truncated as the season may have been, titles this year were not in short supply. Three Hope women’s sports teams earned MIAA Championship titles, an incredible feat for not only the individual teams but the Hope College Athletic Department as well.
Due to COVID-19 the MIAA championships represented the last competitions of the season. As the NCAA has cancelled the majority of National Championships for Division III sports this year. Fayneese Miller, the Chair of the President’s Council explained the NCAA’s decision:
“Today, we made the difficult decision to cancel our Division III winter championships. While some institutions have been able to safely return to sport, the recent declaration form data show that more than half of our division has not returned to winter sport practice and competition to be in a position for NCAA national championship participation.”
This decision from the NCAA was extremely disheartening for schools like Hope that have diligently practiced and prepared for a COVID-safe sports season. Many teams will now lose the chance to claim a possible championship title, such as Hope’s women’s basketball team.
The women’s basketball team finished their season with a perfect record for the second year in a row, maintaining an undefeated streak of 45 games. This cancellation that left them unable to compete in the NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament is the second occurrence in two years for the Hope women’s team. Both this year and the last they were favored to win and ranked #1 in the country, taking an inopportune decision to new disappointing lengths. A heartbreaking end to both seasons, this leaves many players saddened yet particularly grateful for their time with the team.
While the Hope women’s team will be graduating many seniors this year, these vital players will be leaving a strong legacy and room for growth. The strong legacy will hopefully propel the team to a successful and hopefully normal and proper 2021-2022 season.
On Saturday, February 6, the MIAA Women’s Swim and Dive League Championship took place at Calvin University. The Hope women entered the meet as one of the top teams, adjacent to their rivals, Calvin University.
Emma Schaefer (’21) delivered a particularly stunning performance, winning the 100-yard-breaststroke with a Hope College record breaking time of 1:03.75. Thus also breaking her own previously held record by approximately one second. This win helped Schaefer earn the title of MIAA Most Valuable Swimmer. Her second time earning the title since last year’s championship, Schaefer will be graduating this year as one of Hope’s most successful and decorated swimmers.
Hope’s swimming dominance appears to be becoming a possible reigning dynasty as several freshmen outperform the competition. Madeline Tessin (’24) won the 50-yard-freestyle with a time of 23.60, the second fastest Hope recorded time. Freshman divers added to Hope’s win as Sophia Farbarzhevich (’24) earned second place in the 3-meter dive with a score of 347.45 points, followed with third place by Cameron Hamilton (’24) with a score of 335.45 points.
The Hope women finished first overall at the meet, claiming the title of MIAA Champions. They finished with a total team score of 961.5 points. Calvin University earned second place with 931 points, followed by Albion College (732), Kalamazoo College (403.5), Alma College (307) and Olivet College (246).
The MIAA Indoor Track and Field Championships were also held at Calvin University. A large number of events and COVID-19 protocols created a very long meet, totaling to approximately 9.5 hours for the athletes. At the end of the day the Hope women would become the reigning MIAA champions.
The two star teams of the conference included Hope College and Trine University. Both are strong programs with depth across most events. Earlier in the season, competitions had always placed the two teams near each other, creating exciting point tallying and a bit of a rivalry.
Hope running star and MIAA phenom Ana Tucker (’23) set the foundation for Hope’s win. She claimed first place in both the mile and the 3,000 meter. She not only won both events but also beat both Hope’s and the MIAA’s records in both. The sophomore track star continues to break records and push the limits for Division III running, propelling both her team and herself to victory and an optimistic future.
Along with Tucker’s two victories, Hope claimed first place in both high point yielding relay events, the distance medley and the 4×400. With a time of 12:58.21, the distance medley victory was carried out by Rebecca Markham (‘24), Samantha Schermerhorn (’23), Jessica Schamanek (’24) and Anna Mason (’23). Conversely the 4×400 won in a time of 4:08.82. The winning foursome included Claire Benedict (’23), Hannah Kenney (’21), Jacinda Cole (’21) and Grace Behrens (’23).
The Hope women earned a total of 183 points claiming first place and the championship. They were followed closely by Trine University with 174 points. Hope and Trine were followed by Calvin University (86), Albion College (79), Alma College (48), Adrian College (31) and finally Olivet College (20).
As the end of the winter season is upon us, Hope looks forward to the spring. This year’s spring season will be the first spring season in two years, as the entirety of the 2020 season was cancelled due to COVID-19. This spring the following sports will continue or begin their season: golf, lacrosse, hockey, soccer, tennis, outdoor track and field, men’s baseball, women’s softball and men’s hockey. This creates an exciting opportunity as warm weather increases the attractiveness of outdoor venues and as the Hope administration allows for limited fan attendance adhering to social distancing standards.
Hope College and the surrounding community rejoice as inklings of spring and possible COVID-19 improvement positively affect everyday life, maintaining cautious optimism about a return to normalcy.