Liz VanderSlice honors her late father, Chris VanderSlice ’99, during NCAA Championships push

Chris VanderSlice stands with his wife and two daughters.
The VanderSlice family, from left, Liz, Chris, Hannah and Tonya.

Junior Liz VanderSlice lovingly wrapped a Swiss-made NCAA Championships watch around her left wrist before embarking on another title quest with the Hope College volleyball team.

Chris VanderSlice ’99, her late father and former Flying Dutchmen basketball captain, remains close to her no matter where she travels.

This week, Liz is in Claremont, California, outside of Los Angeles, to compete at the NCAA Division III Championships hosted by Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. It is Liz’s second consecutive trip to the national quarterfinals and her first as a starting outside hitter. 

Led by head coach Becky Schmidt, the second-ranked Flying Dutch (30-2) face ninth-ranked Johns Hopkins, Md., University (28-4) on Wednesday, Nov. 29, at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. The match will be streamed on The winner advances to the national semifinals on Thursday, Nov. 30.

Twenty-five years ago, Chris helped Hope finish national runner-up on the basketball court for the second time in three seasons. He also was a member of the 1996 team that was national runner-up.

“My mom and my sister, we have his two [NCAA Championships] watches. I have this one; it’s a good luck charm,” Liz said of the gold-trimmed, white timepiece with a black band. 

Cancer Fighter

Chris VanderSlice shoots a jumper at the Holland Civic Center.
Chris VanderSlice

Six years ago on October 28, Chris died at the age of 40 following a four-year battle with cancer. The well-liked and well-respected administrator and teacher for Grandville Public Schools was survived by his wife, Tonya, and their daughters, Hannah and Liz.

While memories of his difficult and long fight against cancer and his physical absence today understandably still are painful at times, Liz said she and her family still take inspiration from him.

“If I have a bad game or if Coach tells me to make a correction in practice, I catch myself sometimes saying ‘I can’t’,” Liz said. “Instead, I’m like, I’m not going to think like that; that’s just ingrained in me. He said, ‘You can always find a way to do something.’ I’ve always had an attitude, just like how my dad raised us in our family like no one’s going to tell me what I can and can’t do.

“Not that Coach ever set expectations like that early on, but I was like ‘I’m not going to let someone tell me I can’t play because I know I can,” Liz said. “When I put my mind to something, usually I can make it happen. I have a confidence in my ability.”

Liz was not invited to play volleyball when she enrolled at Hope after being a three-sport athlete at Grandville High School. She instead joined the track and field team as a freshman.

Opportunity earned

A year later, Liz visited Coach Schmidt coincidentally on the same day that a roster spot unexpectedly opened up. Liz jumped at the opportunity to play volleyball for the Flying Dutch. She saw limited action as a sophomore, appearing in four matches, for the 2022 Hope team that advanced to the national quarterfinals for the fourth time in program history.

Liz VanderSlice flexes her right arm while holding a volleyball in her left arm.
Liz VanderSlice

Not satisfied with just being on the team, Liz continued to sharpen her game during spring practice and drew the attention of Hope’s coaching staff.

This season, Liz has blossomed into a full-time regular on the court after an injury to teammate Annie Lockett — a returning honorable-mention All-American, too — opened playing time on the right side.

Supported by extended family, including her mom and sister, Liz has appeared in all 32 games for the Flying Dutch. The 5-10 biomedical/bioelectrical engineering major and future medical salesperson is averaging 1.90 kills per set and ranks fifth on the team.

It is a similar path as Chris, who saw limited action during the Flying Dutchmen’s 1996 tournament run and became a key leader in the team’s 1998 postseason drive.

Today, Liz made herself into the significant contributor she is, Schmidt said.

Success story

“This is one of those success stories that I can’t take any credit for. Throughout last season, she kept getting up to speed with the college speed of the game. She didn’t have a big role, then she had to adjust to playing different positions. I think that allowed her to dive in, test her own play and find ways to continue to get better,” Schmidt said. “I give her a ton of credit because she took the initiative to make the most out of every opportunity. She kept pushing.

“Then, she took Dance for Sports with Nicki Flinn [-Culver] in the spring. She gained so much more coordination over her body to the point last spring that we were like ‘She is really hitting the ball hard.’ When Annie [Lockett] went down with a sprained ankle and made a need for another outside position, every time we would put people in competitive battles, she kept stepping up.”

Liz reminded Schmidt of someone she respected while a student-athlete at Hope. While Chris was playing basketball, Schmidt played volleyball for the Flying Dutch before graduating in 1999.

“I think about Chris, too. I didn’t know him that well, but we were classmates,” Schmidt said. “I did watch him play basketball and I could see how gritty he was and how hard he worked: just nose-to-the-grindstone type of athlete he was. I definitely see those same traits in Liz.”

Daughter and father: both finely crafted like a Swiss watch.

SEED Mission Trips: Hope Athletics Orange and Blue Podcast

Two Hope student-athletes play with three youth in Africa.

On the season’s final episode of the Hope Athletics Orange and Blue Podcast, four Hope College student-athletes joined Sports Information Director Alan Babbitt to discuss their service-filled and life-changing SEED trips this summer.

Senior Libby Strotman, senior Madeline Tessin, junior David Brace and junior David Hesselbein each took part in a Sports Evangelism to Equip Disciples (SEED) mission trip.

The program annually provides opportunities for Hope student-athletes to serve in countries such as the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Uganda, and Zambia.

Hope students will utilize their passion for sport to share the love of Christ with individuals around the world.

Through participating in the SEED program, students will be intentionally challenged to use their experiences to sow the seed and water the harvest so that the Good News of Jesus Christ takes root in their lives as it is shared worldwide.

Central America

Hesselbein (Barrington, Illinois / Barrington Community HS) is a goalie for the Flying Dutchmen. The physical and health education major traveled to Costa Rica.

“We were partnered with an organization called Push the Rock,” Hesselbein said. “For the first half of the trip, we did mostly sports camps and a lot of ministry in schools and prisons. The second half of the trip, we went into more tribal areas, less populated and a little bit more off the grid. That’s when we started partnering with Sawyer (Products) to bring water filters to provide clean water for people who didn’t have a source of clean water. That was really cool, too.”

Tessin (Waxhaw Ridge, N.C. / Marvin Ridge) is a swimmer for the Flying Dutch. The exercise science major went to the Dominican Republic.

“We worked with a ministry called Go Ministries and they work specifically through sports and church planting,” Tessin said. “While we were there, we traveled around a lot to different communities. We did a basketball practice with one group, then we just played with kids with another. Daniel mentioned the water filters, and we did those near Haiti.”


Stratman (Park Ridge, Illinois / Maine Township) competes in throwing events on the track and field team. The physical and health education major traveled to Zambia.

“We served the people in Choma, then the two surrounding communities. While we were there, we ran a three-day sports camp,” Strotman said. “We also had a day of service where we built a softball field, which was super cool, and then got to play on it with other people in the community. We partnered with a group called Poetice, which has a lot of Hope history, and was really cool to work with.”

Brace (Plymouth, Michigan / Plymouth) is a midfielder for the Flying Dutchmen lacrosse team. The business major went to Uganda.

“We went to southern Uganda and worked there with Sports Outreach, which brings in children from neighboring communities and teaches the ministry through sports,” Brace said. “We were holding sports camps, and then we’d go into communities in that area and deliver the Sawyer water filters as well. We also went to northern Uganda and it was a little more rural. We gave away a lot of those water filters. It was a great experience. We’re so thankful that Sawyer and Sports Outreach took us in with open arms.”

Read a transcript of the interview.

Sisters Ana and Heleyna Tucker: Hope College Athletics Podcast

Heleyna Tucker poses for a portrait.
Heleyna Tucker
Ana Tucker poses for a portrait.
Ana Tucker

Sisters Ana and Heleyna Tucker reflected on their memorable run as Hope College student-athletes and teammates during the latest episode of the Hope College Athletics Orange and Blue Podcast.

The former cross country and track team champions spoke with Sports Information Director Alan Babbitt about their unique family bond as part of a set of triplets, their different educational pursuits and their shared passion for running.

Both Midland, Michigan, natives graduated from Hope College in May. They are now pursuing post-graduate studies and living apart for the first time in their lives.

Ana is working on her doctorate in physical therapy at Grand Valley State University while also running competitively for the NCAA Division II Lakers. The exercise science major at Hope posted 11 NCAA All-America efforts over three sports during her Flying Dutch, including in each of the cross country, indoor track and outdoor track seasons as a senior.

Heleyna is studying applied statistics in graduate school at the University of Michigan. The mathematics major joined Ana in helping the Flying Dutch win four MIAA titles in cross country and three apiece in indoor and outdoor track and field.

Accomplished Family

Their brother, Charles, recently graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in computer science. He now works for the United States Department of Defense.

“We all have different personality traits and over time, I think we really just learned how to balance each other out, “Each other strengths would fill each other’s weaknesses. That bond is really noticeable. When Heleyna and I went to Hope, it was very noticeable that Charles was away and that there wasn’t that balance.  Now, Heleyna and I are going to separate schools, to separate grad programs. It’s definitely noticeable that we’re apart. Charles actually started running too and he’s doing quite well. We go on triplet runs sometimes together.”

The Tucker sisters also expressed their gratitude for their time at Hope College and all the different people who supported them, taught them and coached them.

“I bet we would both say Norty, our head cross country coach,” Heleyna said, mentioning Mark Northuis, Hope College’s head cross country coach and distance coach for track and field. “He’s definitely been someone to shape us and talk to us if we’re struggling. He helps us in any other aspect because going to college is a big transition is not having your family there. You don’t have your parents to talk to and I feel like your coach kind of becomes like that, an adult figure for you to talk to you if you have an issue. They kind of know if something is wrong. You walk in and can just tell. 

“I’d say, all the math professors have been such amazing influences on me. I mean to name one, I remember in my freshman year I took a Calc 2 class with Aaron Cinzori. He just really impacted me my freshman year and made me really want to pursue being a math major and look more into that in the future. All the math faculty, they’re amazing.”

Read a written transcript of the interview.

David Blahnik: Hope College Athletics Podcast

During a recent jog, Hope College men’s soccer coach David Blahnik listened to the “Revisionist History” podcast episode that explored the vision, impact and potential of the college’s “Hope Forward” initiative.

David Blahnik poses for a portrait.
David Blahnik, Hope College men’s soccer head coach

In the segment, titled “A Good Circle”, best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell spoke with Hope College President Matthew A. Scogin regarding the college’s revolutionary approach to removing tuition as a barrier for access to college while building generosity and community along the way.

Scogin’s words during the episode resonated, Blahnik said, and provided inspiration for the Flying Dutchmen soccer program as well.

“He talked about the idea of running towards challenges and that really resonated with me. I was laughing. I was actually running while I was listening,” Blahnik said earlier this month while recording the latest episode of the Hope Athletics Orange and Blue Podcast. 

“I like the idea of we wan our program to be something where you’re running towards the challenges: on the field, off the field, in the locker room, and all those other areas I thought about, so when somebody leaves here as a Hope grad, they really are able to go and, in a sense, conquer whatever they want to conquer in their life going forward.”

Blahnik is heading into his second season leading the Flying Dutchmen. His team reports to campus on Friday, Aug. 19, to begin preparations for the 2023 season opener on Friday, September 1, against Ohio Wesleyan University at Van Andel Soccer Stadium. Kickoff is 6 p.m.

Hope is aiming to challenge for an MIAA regular-season title after finishing runner-up last season in the standings and the league tournament. The Flying Dutchmen went 7-5-6 overall.

Soccer: A Life’s Passion

On the Hope Athletics Orange and Blue Podcast, Blahnik talks about this season’s schedule, his coaching staff and what to expect from the Flying Dutchmen.

Blahnik also chats about his journey to Hope College, including how he decided between two sports he loved playing — soccer and baseball, and his time as a student-athlete and head men’s soccer coach at his alma mater, Olivet Nazarene University, near Chicago. 

Off the field, Blahnik balances coaching soccer at a high level with being a loving husband and father of two sons, ages 9 and 4. His wife, Karlynn, is a local kindergarten teacher, so the month of September is an extremely busy one for his family.

“It’s difficult but awesome to be a college head coach and have a family,” Blahnik said. “You spend a lot of time with others, but at the same time, my 9-year-old thinks it’s the coolest thing in the world to be around the guys. My son’s over at Hope Tennis Academy right now during their summer season with my niece and my 4-year-old is watching. We love the community.

“We want our kids to go to Hope, whether I am working here or not, so when the opportunity arose (to coach here) it was a no-brainer for us. We’ll figure it out. I don’t think any head coach who’s married has the perfect way of doing it, but we try to make the most of it for us.”

Read a written transcript of the interview.

Delaney Wesolek: Hope College Athletics Podcast

Delaney Wesolek’s daily calendar fills up quickly as a Hope College swimmer and nursing student. Time is precious as a student-athlete with early-morning practices, classes or clinicals during the day, afternoon practices, and evening homework or relaxation.

Delaney Wesolek poses for a portrait.
Delaney Wesolek

Maximizing all of the opportunities, Wesolek handles daily tasks at an extremely high level. In April, the senior from Bay City, Michigan (John Glenn HS) was named the 2023 Hope College Be Strong. Be True. Female Athlete of the Year. One month earlier, Wesolek competed on relays at the NCAA Division III Championships and helped the Flying Dutch finish 10th in the nation.

Wesolek recently joined the Hope College Athletics Orange and Blue Podcast, along with head swimming and diving coach Jake Taber, to talk about what it is like to be a Division III student-athlete at Hope.

In addition to swimming and studying, Wesolek has been involved with Dance Marathon at Hope, an annual fundraiser for the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, and helped start Team 43, a support group for Hope student-athletes that focuses on mental health.

“Old school” time management

How does Wesolek keep on top of everything? 

“For me, I would say I’m kind of old school in how I do my time management. My paper planner is my best friend, and I rely on it so much,” Wesolek said. “It definitely keeps me in line. I hold myself accountable by making my schedule. 

“I’m a big list person as well. That’s something that (Coach) Taber can even talk about whenever we have little meetings, I come in, I have my list and he’s like, ‘All right, what’s on the list? Let’s just get to it.’ That’s just kind of how I roll because I love crossing things off and just working off my list and using my planner and that’s something that I did do in high school,” Wesolek said. “I would say when I got to the college level, it was definitely an adjustment itself with a different class schedule. That’s different than what high school was but also just unique training schedules as well. That was definitely new and I had to learn how to navigate my time and how I manage that.”

Taber was thrilled to see Wesolek chosen as one of two Be Strong. Be True. Athletes of the Year. Football’s Dan Romano was the male recipient.

“For me, it’s funny to hear Delaney say how shocked she was. I wasn’t,” Taber said. “The experience that, we and our coaching staff have had working with her every day for the last three years is that she embodies what it means a Christian student-athlete. She’s involved in her community. She continues to excel at a very high level. 

“She gets it done in the pool, on campus, in the community, and she isn’t just involved in these things. I mean she’s got leadership roles and she has a tremendously high impact in everything that she’s involved with. When you look at what we’re about, from a student-athlete standpoint here at Hope College, I can’t think of a better representative than Delaney.”

Read a written transcript of the interview.

Kevin Wolma: Hope College Athletics Podcast

The Hope Athletics Orange and Blue Podcast has returned this summer for a third season with a special series of interviews with Hope College student-athletes, administration and staff. 

Kevin Wolma poses for a portrait outside of DeVos Fieldhouse.
Kevin Wolma

For the season’s third episode, sports information director Alan Babbitt sits down with Kevin Wolma, Hope College’s Assistant Athletic Director for Student Wellness and Compliance.

In this new role, Wolma will be advocating for and leading programs which will benefit the comprehensive wellness of Hope College student-athletes, while also supporting coaches and staff in their efforts to have a transformational impact. 

“The wellness piece is a little bit new as far as a titled position,” Wolma said. “We do a lot of great things for student-athletes here at Hope College. The role is about tying a lot of that into one space and having somebody that will be working with different partnerships on campus and with our coaching staff to ensure that student-athlete experience for them, to provide the resources that they need, whether it’s social, emotional, mental, spiritual, or physical wellness.

“We’ve got a lot of pieces already on campus. It is just exciting to tie into that and create this mental health experience, an overall wellness experience, for them that will be transformational for the student-athletes when they leave Hope.”

A Career in Education and Wellness

Prior to joining Hope Athletics, Wolma worked for two years as Associate Director of Admissions at Hope and for 25 years in education as a teacher, a coach and an administrator.

Wolma served as athletic director for Hudsonville Public Schools for 10 years from 2011 to 2021. He taught secondary health and physical education at Hudsonville from 1997 through 2011. 

He also coached three varsity sports at Hudsonville: girls golf from 2009 to 2011, boys basketball from 2000 to 2006, and girls tennis from 1997 to 2002. He also coached varsity boys basketball at Caledonia from 1997 to 2000. 

Wolma started his career in education at Roscommon, where he taught secondary science for one year.

While new to athletics administration in college, Wolma is well-versed in what Hope has to offer. He and his wife, Gina, have three children who attend Hope. Jordan and Kayla, twin brother and sister, will be seniors at Hope this fall, while Kelsey will be a freshman.

Read a written transcript of the interview.

Angelique Gaddy-McElveen: Hope College Athletics Podcast

The Hope Athletics Orange and Blue Podcast has returned this summer for a third season with a special series of interviews with Hope College student-athletes, administration and staff. 

For the summer’s second episode, sports information director Alan Babbitt sits down with Angelique Gaddy-McElveen, Hope College’s Assistant Athletic Director of Philanthropy.

Angelique Gaddy poses for a portrait outside of DeVos Fieldhouse.
Angelique Gaddy-McElveen

In this new role, Gaddy-McElveen leads Athletics’ philanthropy efforts in collaboration with the college’s Philanthropy and Engagement Division.

This strategic partnership will allow Athletics to broaden and strengthen its commitment to providing a transformational experience where student-athletes can thrive academically and athletically through programs focused on their holistic development and preparing them for lives of leadership and impact.

“I did a lot of listening, then also pulled into some efforts that we had already started over the last year,” Gaddy-McElveen said of her work as Assistant Athletic Director of Philanthropy since January when she started. “When I wasn’t in this role yet, last October, we started corporate sponsorships for athletics that was headed by Keagan Pontius, women’s lacrosse coach. We worked very closely together. We also have our Orange and Blue Fund; that’s headed by Dan Osterbaan. The three of us do a lot of things regarding annual giving and corporate sponsorships. 

“I was brought on to lead those efforts to put more synergy behind the direction of them altogether, acting as one. I’ll be working more so with some of those major gifts and cultivating those relationships of how can we really pair, whether it’s parents, alumni, fans, friends of the college, how can we pair what their passions are, their desires for student-athletes, coaches, programming, and make that a real opportunity for those different areas on campus.”

Hope-Full History

Prior to joining the Hope Athletics administration, Gaddy-McElveen served on the college’s admissions team for three years and was responsible for admissions recruitment in the Chicagoland area and seven schools in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Most recently, she taught a first-year seminar titled “Mamba Mentality and Motivation”. She serves as a first-year advisor.

In 2019, Gaddy-McElveen earned her Master’s degree in Sport Management from Western Michigan University. In 2017, she graduated from Hope with bachelor’s degrees in business and communication.

After graduating from Hope, Gaddy-McElveen worked as a compliance specialist at Grand Valley State University for two years.

At Hope, Gaddy-McElveen was a standout student-athlete on the women’s basketball team that posted a 103-11 overall record over four seasons.

The Flying Dutch made four NCAA Division III Tournament appearances and claimed three MIAA titles between 2014 and 2017. A guard, Gaddy-McElveen received All-MIAA First Team honors as a junior and All-MIAA Second Team honors as a senior. She was elected team captain as a senior and junior.

Read a written transcript of the interview.

Dan Romano: Hope College Athletics Podcast

The Hope Athletics Orange and Blue Podcast is returning this summer for a third season with a special series of interviews with Hope College student-athletes, administration and staff. 

Dan Romano poses for a portrait.
Dan Romano

For this summer’s first episode, sports information director Alan Babbitt sits down with recent graduate Dan Romano ‘23, this year’s male recipient of the Hope Athletics Be Strong. Be True. Athlete of the Year award, and Flying Dutchmen head football coach Peter Stuursma.

The Be Strong. Be True. Athlete of the Year award is presented to a male and female junior or senior who demonstrates the true essence of being a student-athlete and embodies the Division III motto of Discover, Develop, Dedicate. This student-athlete is in high academic standing (minimum GPA of 3.5), plays a significant role on the team, and is involved in the Hope and Holland community. 

Later this summer, we will chat with the 2023 female recipient, senior swimmer Delaney Wesolek, and head swimming and diving coach Jake Taber. Both Wesolek and Romano received their awards during the HOPEYs ceremony in April.

“Taking advantage of every opportunity”

Romano packed in a lot of activity as a student-athlete at Hope:

  • Majored in biomedical and mechanical engineering, minored in mathematics; 
  • Two-year starter on the football team while earning All-MIAA Second Team honors as a junior and recording a pair of 200-yard rushing games;
  • Semifinalist for the National Football Foundation’s Campbell Trophy that recognizes a college football student-athlete for his academic success, football performance and exemplary leadership; 
  • Served on Hope’s and MIAA’s ACT-SAAC (Athletes Coming Together-Student Athlete Advisory Council);
  • Participated in a SEED (Sport Evangelism to Equip Disciples) trip in 202’
  • Co-lead Bible study for the football team.

After graduating last month, Romano married Hannah Cross ‘23 and began working at Gentex Corporation as a product design engineer.

On the Hope Athletics Orange and Blue Podcast, Romano said he used his time as a student-athlete at Hope as an opportunity to grow, to meet people, to become just to become the better version of himself. 

“I did find myself saying yes a lot and taking advantage of every opportunity that I could,” Romano said. “That just led me down a road to one being busy, but also just really growing in every aspect of my life. Whether it was football, academics my faith with the Bible study being a leader on ACT-SAAC, or repping the MIAA, they were all just like really cool opportunities I didn’t want to pass up on.

“I saw it more as like I want to excel in it and be the best that I can be in it.”

Read a written transcript of interview

Hope College Student-Athlete Spotlight: Seth Almquist, Men’s Golf

Seth Almquist watches his iron shot on the golf course.
Senior Seth Almquist

Seth Almquist is teeing off for Hope College for the final time this week at the NCAA Division III Championships in Kentucky.

Shortly after Almquist’s final round on the course, the recent graduate and Minneapolis, Minnesota, native, will travel to Africa to learn about global missions from Poetice International. 

Almquist majored in environmental geochemistry at Hope and played on the Flying Dutchmen’s 2022 MIAA regular-season and 2023 MIAA Tournament championship team.

He shared how his life was transformed as a student-athlete at Hope and how he aims to keep his Christian faith at the center of everything he does, including the national stage as a golfer.

The 72-hole, four-day NCAA Championships begin on Tuesday, May 16, at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky., outside of Lexington. There is a cut after 36 holes.

1. What are your post-graduation plans? 

Almquist: Starting on May 20, I will participate in the “Intensive Training Program” hosted by Poetice International in Choma, Zambia. This is a six-week program designed to help grow in faith and community in preparation for future work in global missions. After that trip, I plan to spend some time with my family back in Minnesota, then find a job. I’m hoping to work at the intersection between global drinking water access and Christian mission but am uncertain at what exact role I’m being called to in that field. 

2. What drew you to majoring in environmental geochemistry?

Almquist: I’ve always loved spending time in nature in my free time and have been very interested in science academically. As I looked for a major that piqued these interests, chemistry suited the scientific side, but it wasn’t quite right. Thankfully, Hope has a composite major where I could work with the geology and chemistry departments to create one major across both disciplines. I love how applicable the class material is to real-world problems like water and air pollution. I love I get to learn about these things from a chemistry perspective, which is super interesting to me.

3.  What has it meant to be able for you to pursue your interests at Hope in the classroom as well as on the golf course?

Almquist: Hope has been such a great place for me both academically and athletically. The ability to be a full-time student, do research on campus, and then also compete on the team has made my time here so special. A senior on the team my freshman year saw golf as his reward for working hard in the classroom, and I’ve adopted that for myself. I get to go to practice and forget about schoolwork for a few hours. It has created a great balance in my life over my four years. I’m so grateful to have the opportunities Hope has provided me.

4. What was the game of golf taught you beyond the course?

Almquist: Every golf ball I play with has “AO1” written on it, which stands for “Audience of One”. I do this as a reminder that I’m playing golf at Hope because God has gifted me with the skill set to do so. No matter how well or poorly I’m playing and how many people are there watching, God’s opinion is all that matters, and I am honoring him by doing what I love. I’ve taken this viewpoint outside of golf into my everyday life. I am trying to be authentic to who I am, knowing that God is proud of me, and I don’t need to change based on what others think.

5. What does it mean to have to have the opportunity to compete at nationals with your teammates?

Almquist: I’m beyond excited. To cap off my senior year with a trip to nationals with these guys is an amazing way to finish my collegiate career. I’m really looking forward to taking it all in and enjoying the moment while hopefully playing well in the process. We set the goal at the beginning of the fall season to make the cut at nationals. I’m hopeful that I can contribute and help the team achieve that goal.

Hope College Student-Athlete Spotlight: Jackson Player and Helen Dodge

Jackson Player and Helen Dodge pose for portraits.
Pictured, from left, seniors Jackson Player and Helen Dodge

Seniors Jackson Player and Helen Dodge relish their opportunity to pursue their academic and athletic interests as members of the Hope College indoor and outdoor track and field teams.

Player, a psychology major from San Antonio, Texas (Winston Churchill HS), and Dodge, a biology major from Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan (Grosse Pointe South), both are competing at the MIAA Indoor Championships this weekend.

The one-day meet is scheduled to begin on Saturday, April 25, at 9:30 a.m. at Trine University. Player is a record-setting hurdler and one of the Flying Dutchmen’s top jumpers. Dodge is an accomplished sprinter and long jumper.

Player and Dodge shared their experiences as student-athletes and how Hope College is transforming their lives.

1. What do you enjoy most about competing in track and field?  

Player:  The thing that I enjoy most about competing is getting to see hard work pay off and getting to experience the successes of my teammates firsthand. 

Dodge: What I enjoy most about competing in track and field is that it’s an independent sport in which you are trying to break your own personal records, but it is also a team effort in which we work together to score points for our team in order to win and push each other to work harder and run faster.

2. How has being a college athlete helped you in the classroom?

Dodge: Being a college athlete has helped me in the classroom with time management skills. I have needed to prioritize getting my homework and studying done without procrastinating since we spend 1-2 hours at practice every day. Having track practice is a nice break from school where we get to hang out with friends while being productive and getting a workout in.

Player: Being a college athlete has helped me stay driven in the classroom and helped me find a healthy balance between schoolwork and competition. 

3. How is your time at Hope College transforming you as a person?

Player: My time at Hope College has transformed my work ethic in a significant way. During my time here I’ve found myself more driven to succeed both on the track and in the classroom. I feel fortunate that Hope has provided me with a place full of support that allows for such significant growth. 

Dodge: My time at Hope College has transformed me as a person by allowing me to realize that it’s important to find joy in everyday things. I am able to do this by laughing and having fun with my teammates every day at practice.