Hope Athletics Podcast: Greg Stafford, Women’s Golf

Greg Stafford is grateful to still enjoy his calling even in retirement. Being the Hope College women’s golf coach means the world to him.

In this episode of the Hope Athletics Orange and Blue Podcast, Stafford tells sports information director Alan Babbitt about why he relishes coaching the Flying Dutch golfers. 

Greg Stafford poses for a portrait.
Head women’s golf coach Greg Stafford

Stafford also shares how his Hope College coaching career started and how he and his team approached a unique fall golf season.

“I just like working with kids. If it wasn’t coaching, I’m sure I would be doing something else with kids,” Stafford said. “I’m one of the luckiest people in the world. I actually did my whole life something that I was happy doing and thought I was put on earth to do. I feel I was brought here to coach.”

Looking Ahead

Stafford is in his 12th season as head coach of the Hope College women’s golf team. He started after he retired from teaching at the Godwin Heights school district near Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The Flying Dutch recently completed their fall practice after the COVID-19 pandemic postponed competition until the spring.

Hope looks forward to teeing off the spring season on Saturday, March 27 with the first of eight scheduled MIAA 18-hole Jamborees.

Practicing and playing together, while following NCAA and Ottawa County Health Department-safety protocols, were beneficial, Stafford said.

“We were therapeutic for both,” Stafford said. “Obviously in our country right now, this is a very trying time. I really needed something to do and the girls needed something to do.

“It was just a blessing for all parties involved that we had something to look forward to. Five days a week, we went out and worked hard and tried to put everything else behind. We’re really looking forward to the spring.”

Written transcript of the Orange and Blue Podcast interview

Fall Student-Athletes Discuss Leadership and Gratitude amid COVID-19, Part II

Five Hope College fall student-athletes shared their insights into a semester and a season disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and how they have tried to display leadership and show gratitude during trying times.

In Part 1, the team co-captains answered the following question focused on leadership: “How have you helped lead your team this fall amid the COVID-19 pandemic that required so many changes to the way you do things?”

In Part 2, they answered the following question focused on gratitude: “What is something positive you have experienced this semester that you might have not have during a ‘traditional’ season?” See their answers below.

Dominick Byrne, Men’s Soccer

Dominick Byrne poses for a portrait.
Dominick Byrne

“I have been able to go to my grandparents house every weekend for lunch and spend time with them that I would not have if we were in season. I also have been able to help my brother adapt to Hope as he is an incoming freshman.”

Abby Meder, Women’s Golf

Abby Meder poses for a portrait.
Abby Meder

“Since we are only playing with each other, I have really enjoyed spending time with my team and getting to know some of the new players really well. Outside of golf, I have enjoyed more time to work on school, go to the beach, and be with friends and family more often than is possible in a regular season.”

Adair Cutler, Volleyball

Adair Cutler poses for a portrait.
Adair Cutler

“Typically, our fall season is so busy that we don’t get to spend a ton of time off the court with teammates, but this fall I’ve been able to spend time with each of my teammates to get to know them better outside of volleyball. We get to bond in our offseason before competing together this year, which I think will benefit our team in the spring. We’ve also had the opportunity to play beach volleyball, and that’s something that I think a lot of us will continue after college.”

Jeremiah Purnell, Football

Jeremiah Purnell poses for a headshot.
Jeremiah Purnell

“During a normal season we are booked from Monday-Saturday. Because of COVID-19, our schedule is not as compact and busy. We are able to enjoy more days off. We have weekends now that we can spend relaxing and hanging out with friends while social distancing. I have been able to see my mom for a longer period of time, which is always great because I don’t see her often.”

Brooke Truszkowski, Women’s Cross Country

Brooke Truskowski poses for a portrait.

“I live with four amazing and talented basketball players, and typically our busy seasons are opposite of each other because I am typically away on the weekends in the fall and spring, and they are on the road continuing to be undefeated all winter. I have been blessed with spending more time with them and doing online classes, hikes, random ice cream runs, and just enjoying each other’s company is something that I really enjoy having more time for. I love spending time with my cross country team, but they are also my biggest support system and my team of comfort I get to live with.”

Fall Student-Athletes Discuss Leadership and Gratitude Amid COVID-19, Part I

Five Hope College fall student-athletes shared their insights into a semester and a season disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and how they have tried to display leadership and show gratitude during trying times.

In Part 1, the team co-captains answered the following question focused on leadership: “How have you helped lead your team this fall amid the COVID-19 pandemic that required so many changes to the way you do things?” See their answers below. 

In Part 2, they answered the following question focused on gratitude: “What is something positive you have experienced this semester that you might have not have during a ‘traditional’ season?”

Brooke Truszkowski, Women’s Cross Country

Brooke Truskowski poses for a portrait.
Brooke Truszkowski

“I think I have led my team amid the COVID-19 pandemic by proving that we can be close and have the strong team dynamic, although our traditions and team bonding may look different. I think that COVID-19 has made me realize what a gift we have to be able to practice and compete every day. Although this is not how I envisioned my senior season, being able to see my teammates every day at 4 p.m. is all I think each of us athletes wanted. I like to remind my teammates of this as well. Having a positive attitude among the uncertainty is what bonds us all together and this proved to show a difference in our virtual meet against each other. We all ran our home course 5k to get times to send out to different colleges, and almost every one of our runners PR’d (personal record). To see my team so happy and competitive about a virtual race made me so proud. Leading with positivity is hopefully contagious to my teammates, and I want to try to continue to lead with optimism amid the chaos of COVID-19.” 

Jeremiah Purnell, Football

Jeremiah Purnell poses for a headshot.
Jeremiah Purnell

“I think that I and many others on the team have helped lead our team throughout this pandemic. With a large team on campus, there are a lot of players that are affected by this pandemic. Team comradery is huge and as a team, I feel as though this pandemic has brought us closer together. We have done many activities together as a team that has built our foundation and made relationships stronger. Coach (Peter Stuursma) always tells us to do the right thing when nobody’s watching, which means never skipping reps or not going 100 percent during practice. When you’re working hard practicing, or lifting early through the week without a game at the end of the week, it tests people’s character and their commitment to the game. We know that we won’t be competing this fall, but knowing that other teams in our conference (Adrian and Trine) are playing right now drives us even more to be better. I also think that the Zoom meetings that we hold are very helpful for learning the plays, especially for our younger guys on the team.”

Adair Cutler, Volleyball

Adair Cutler poses for a portrait.
Adair Cutler

“There’s something especially inspiring about watching someone work hard for no reward, and that’s what our team is doing right now. We won’t compete for a national championship this year, but we’re still training hard and giving everything we have, and that reveals a lot about our team’s character. I’m helping lead this team by maintaining the hard work, commitment, and championship mindset we would have in any other season, despite the lack of competition. We are also staying in the present. It’s easy to let our minds slip into thinking about the past or the future, but we are staying engaged with the moments we have right now. My teammates make it easy to be joyful in the present, and we’re cherishing the time that we do have together. We are enduring this season with a spirit of optimism and an unwavering work ethic regardless of the reward.”

Abby Meder, Women’s Golf

Abby Meder poses for a portrait.
Abby Meder

“I think our focus this fall has been ensuring that everyone still feels like a part of the team despite missing some of the opportunities we usually have to get to know one another. It began before the season. We had Zoom meetings as a team that included the incoming freshman in order to get to know one another and help everyone feel comfortable and welcome. During the season, we focused our team meetings on growing outside of just our golf game. Given that this is such a weird semester, we focused on community, service, and unity as topics. We talked about relevant topics in our world, checked in with each other, and even did some (remote) service together. Overall, our focus this season was not only working on our golf game but also growing as people.”

Dominick Byrne, Men’s Soccer

Dominick Byrne poses for a portrait.
Dominick Byrne

“I have helped lead my team in this pandemic by demonstrating that this is how we close the gap on the teams that are better than us. We are using this time to reload rather than relax. We may not be the most talented team, but we want to be the hardest-working team in the country. If I can convey to them that we are taking dead-aim at being national champions, then the only way to do this is to outwork everyone.”

Hope Athletics Podcast: Peter Stuursma, Football

Peter Stuursma is Hope College’s energetic, enthusiastic, caring, and successful football coach. Yet it’s not the only role he relishes.

He also is a loving husband and father of three. This year, for the first time, two of his children share the Hope College campus with him. His daughter, Hannah, is a junior. His son, Robbie, is a freshman who is a member of the Flying Dutchmen baseball team.

In this week’s Hope Athletics Orange and Blue Podcast, Stuursma talks with sports information director Alan Babbitt about his family and what he has been doing this fall with all of his extra time without football games. 

Peter Stuursma talks on the sidelines during a football game.
Hope College football coach Peter Stuursma

Stuursma also gives an update on the Flying Dutchmen football team and their fall practice. Hope, the 2019 MIAA champion, has been preparing for a five-game spring season.

“I can hear the bats hitting the balls out there (at Boeve Stadium),” Stuursma said. “We’re practicing, then all of a sudden I see the (baseball) team leave and Robbie walks by and waves. That’s neat.

“I also am very, very conscious of the fact that I want this experience to be theirs, not mine. Amy and I have already done that. They have to find their niche and they have to find the things that are positive and negative. They don’t stop by and see me every day. But there’s just that time and all of a and I’ll get a text like, ‘Hey, Dad, want to go to lunch? I’m like, ‘Yep, we’re going.’ It’s just very lucky.”

Focusing on The Moment

This fall, Stuursma has used the extra time in his days to enjoy activities he usually misses out on due to his busy football schedule. He has golfed with his youngest son, Mitchell, who recently picked up the sport. Lawn mowing is debuting on his October to-do list, too.

Of course, football is still a big part of Stuursma’s life. The Flying Dutchmen are following the NCAA practice guidelines for this COVID-impacted school year and training in unique ways. Practicing and recruiting have required creative thinking and nimbleness, things Stuursma is proud to see his team and coaching staff embrace.

“With COVID, we’ve really had to learn to worry about today because we can plan and be incredibly proactive about what’s going on, but tomorrow might change and today might change,” Stuursma said. “As a staff this morning, we talked about that. How can we improve today at practice? How can we up the ante, up the energy level, up the competition level? That’s our focus now, always we’ll be.”

Written transcript from podcast

Hope Athletics Podcast: Mark Northuis, Cross Country

Mark Northuis has covered his share of miles over a distinguished academic and cross country career at Hope College. He has excelled as a student-athlete, coach, and professor.

Northuis, of course, loves to run. He also loves the place where he has been able to develop all three phases of his life and help others do the same.

Mark Northuis runs on a cross country course prior to a meet.
Hope College cross country coach Mark Northuis

Northuis talked about his affinity for Hope College as a guest on the Hope Athletics Orange and Blue Podcast.

“I go back to my days of choosing the college myself, an opportunity to run Division I, and I didn’t think I could handle Ann Arbor as an 18-year-old. Back in the day 70s, it was a pretty crazy time,” Northuis said. “I chose Hope because of what I could do academically, athletically, and spiritually. That’s the whole reason why I choose to come back to Hope to teach. I want to pass on that to the student-athletes for the next generations.”

Northuis has been the head cross country coach at Hope College since 1988. He also is an assistant track and field coach, where he focuses on working with distance and middle distance runners.

Adapting to Change

This fall, Northuis has adjusted to leading a team without formal competitions this school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He chatted with sports information director Alan Babbitt about how he has been training his women’s and men’s runners this fall, how the teams are progressing and the invaluable help he receives from assistant coaches Brian VanZanten and Phil Jones.

Northuis relishes the opportunity to now be coaching the children of former Hope College runners.

“It’s neat. Now I get to coach second generations of people that I coach when I first got here. That says a little bit about my age. But on the other hand, I guess the longevity as well,” Northuis said. “But that’s the reason why I love being here. It’s just the opportunities, the mission that Hope has, and the opportunity every day to be able to work with student-athletes of quality that we have and be able to interact with them in that way. I love it.”

Written transcript of the Orange and Blue Podcast

Student-Athletes Take Steps Against Interpersonal Violence

Aidan Jones became inspired to make a difference regarding interpersonal violence after he listened to a lecture at Hope College and a presentation in a class.

Gabbi Taylor found her calling to help after she spoke with a teammate.

Both sophomores on the Hope College cross country and track and field teams have taken leadership roles in the on-campus student group, Students Teaching and Empowering Peers, along with junior teammate Sarah Cannon.

STEP aims to educate, empower, and encourage members of the campus community to combat interpersonal violence. 

More than 1 in 3 women, and more than 1 in 4 men, experience intimate partner violence during their lifetimes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Also, the CDC reports that 1 in 3 teens experience dating violence and those who identify as nonbinary or LGBTGQ+ are often even more likely to experience abuse.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. STEP invites the Hope College community to take part in various events and awareness opportunities this month on campus

“STEP sees all of its educators as activists within their own communities, and athletes are no different,” Gibson said. “Athletes are leaders on Hope’s campus. Their words and actions are looked up to. They can be models of healthy relationships and ambassadors for prevention within their teams, but also for our campus as a whole.”

Christian Gibson, Hope College victim advocate and prevention educator

Emerging Leaders

Jones is working with STEP executive committee member Owen Beird this semester on educational programming for men. Topics include ‘What is masculinity?’, interpersonal violence, and sexual violence.

Aidan Jones poses for a portrait.
Sophomore Aidan Jones

“I was getting tired and frustrated with constantly seeing interpersonal violence and sexual violence stories show up on social media, especially among male athletes. I wanted to help make a difference,’ Jones said. “Then I participated in the Title IX lecture during an event at the DeWitt Center and a STEP education lecture in a health dynamics class. It is important for me to lead by example. I joined STEP to show that it’s unacceptable for males to cause any sexual violence.”

Taylor is involved with two STEP committees: The first finds STEP representatives from athletic teams and Greek organizations, and the second creates on-campus events throughout the school year.

“I’m really passionate about raising awareness about interpersonal violence and sexual assault,” Taylor said. “I have learned there are a lot of ways someone can experience abuse and project that abuse, abuse being how they deal with being raped, stalked, emotionally abused or physically abused. 

“There are a lot of ways people deal with being hurt. It is important to help people with what they’re going through. This is very apparent in our society right now, especially women, but men as well.”

Cannon, Jones, and Taylor are amazing leaders both on campus and within STEP,” said Christian Gibson, the Hope College victim advocate and prevention educator.

“Sarah has taken the lead on our communications, Gabbi is helping to lead the Press Pause Campaign, and Aidan steps in where he can!” Gibson said. “They all act as liaisons from our work to their team, both formally and informally. 

Encouraging Conversation

Gabbi Taylor poses for a portrait.
Sophomore Gabbi Taylor

“It has been exciting to learn about the conversations that the cross country and track and field teams specifically are having around healthy relationships, consent, etc., and how the culture is changing for the better,” Gibson said. “I am grateful for Sarah, Aidan, and Gabbi’s leadership in that change!” 

Student-athletes have a powerful role to play in the work of STEP, Gibson said. 

“STEP sees all of its educators as activists within their own communities, and athletes are no different,” Gibson said. “Athletes are leaders on Hope’s campus. Their words and actions are looked up to. They can be models of healthy relationships and ambassadors for prevention within their teams, but also for our campus as a whole.”

Gibson said STEP is actively recruiting student-athlete representatives. 

Sarah Cannon poses for a portrait.
Junior Sarah Cannon

“This position is unique from being a STEP Educator; athletic STEP reps are responsible for facilitating a connection/relationship between STEP and their athletic teams,” Gibson said. “You can read about the role here, and apply here! Email adriana.mirabelli@hope.edu and owen.beird@hope.edu for more information.” 

Jones and Taylor believe it is vital for student-athletes to realize the depth of the problem in interpersonal violence in society and be active against it.

“I believe students-athletes should understand that all too often their positions have been used to take advantage of others, resulting in sexual violence,” Jones said. “Our job as student-athletes at Hope is to change that culture and show that we don’t tolerate that kind of activity.”

Added Taylor, “Teams of athletes travel in packs. The younger students learn from older students. If people can just be role models and shut things down when anyone is exhibiting a bad idea, I think that would be really impactful. We need teams to say we’re going to do everything we can to prevent that.”

More information on this month’s STEP events: 

Van Wylen Library Display – Begins October 5

The Van Wylen Library is partnering with STEP in their October display. Stop by on the main floor to both learn about domestic violence and healthy relationships, receive resources, and get a glimpse at the Clothesline Project, which shows the strength and resilience of those who have experienced domestic or dating violence and gives a platform and voice to those who bravely seek to break the silence on issues relating to domestic and dating violence. 

Come As You Are – Every Tuesday at 11am 

STEP began a new weekly discussion program entitled Come As You Are (CAYA). The mission of this event is for STEP to engage in interpersonal violence prevention through conversation and discussion, each week focusing on a unique topic. October 6, we welcome Dr. Sarah Kornfiled (Associate Professor of Communications and Women’s and Gender Studies) who will be hosting a conversation on rape culture. On October 13, we welcome Sara Dorer, Equal Opportunity and Compliance Coordinator, who will be discussing the new Title IX Regulations. October 20 & 27 are TBD. Join us on Zoom via this link

Eavesdropping on the Experts: A roundtable discussion about the intersection of COVID 19 and domestic violence – Tuesday, October 14, 7-8:30pm

Join us in a virtual, town hall style conversation with local leaders who will discuss the question: “How has COVID-19 increased cases of domestic violence, and what does that look like for our community?” Our guests will be Jill Whitcomb, Hope’s Equal Opportunity and Compliance Investigator, Brad Hiefjte, Trauma Therapist at Resilience: Advocates for Ending Violence, and Dr. Carrie Bredow, Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of Women and Gender Studies Department. Join us on Zoom using this link

Wear Purple Campaign – October 19-23 

STEP is excited to partner with the Kletz Market to promote a week of wearing purple. We all have a role in promoting healthy relationships and building a healthy community. Use wearing purple as a conversation starter and share why ending domestic violence is important to you. Share photos of you wearing purple with STEP via email or Instagram, @hopecollegestep. 

Hope Athletics Podcast: Leigh Sears, Women’s Soccer

Leigh Sears chose to treat this fall for the Hope College women’s soccer team the same as previous seasons, even though so much is different.

The Flying Dutch practice every afternoon, following guidelines from the NCAA and Ottawa County Department of Health. The Saturdays that previously featured game days now have team workouts and special team activities.

In the latest Hope Athletics Orange and Blue Podcast, Sears talks with sports information director Alan Babbitt about her approach to this unprecedented soccer season. 

Leigh Sears points while giving directions on the soccer field.
Hope College women’s soccer coach Leigh Sears

The Flying Dutch are not scheduled to play a game until March 23, 2021 when they host Saint Mary’s College at Van Andel Soccer Stadium. It is the first of eight regular-season matches against MIAA opponents for Hope. A league tournament will conclude the season.

“We have tried to make this fall as much like a normal season as possible,” Sears said. “We decided early on that, without the pressure of the season, starting time and playing time, we would focus on individuals. We set our goals as individual goals as opposed to team goals. How can we get each player better?

“If everybody gets a little better, we’ll be that much better in the spring when it’s time to compete.”

Sears is in her 20th season as Hope’s head women’s soccer coach. She has guided the Flying Dutch to 232-116-32 overall record and six MIAA championships.

Hope finished second in the MIAA standings last season. The Flying Dutch posted a 6-5-6 overall record.

Sears is busy this fall teaching as well. She is an associate professor of kinesiology and specializes in nutrition education. 

On top of that, Sears is recovering from a breast cancer diagnosis last March that resulted in surgery and radiation. She also shares on the podcast her story as a breast cancer survivor and how she managed to handle that amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read a written transcript of the podcast.

Hope Athletics Podcast: Dan Margritz, Strength and Conditioning

Dan Margritz poses for a portrait wearing a blue sport coat, white button-up shirt and an orange tie.
Dan Margritz, Hope College strength and conditioning coach

Last Friday, Dan Margritz woke up at 3:45 a.m. and ate chicken enchilada lasagna for breakfast. He headed over to Hope College, then put in about 30,000 steps as strength and conditioning coach, or about 15 miles, before the day ended.

Life as a strength and conditioning coach is, without a question, different.

Margritz, however, loves every busy second of his day. He fuels himself so that he can train Hope College student-athletes, be a good husband and a loving father.

Margritz is this week’s guest in the Hope College Athletics Orange and Blue Podcast. He chatted with sports information director Alan Babbitt about his unusual schedule, his twin toddler daughters, and his love of Memphis barbecue.

A man constantly on the move, Margritz has been nimble the past six months. He has helped Hope student-athletes remain in top shape despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Margritz creatively designed and implemented safe outdoor and indoor workouts. He continued to inspire those around him with his never-ending enthusiasm and energy.

This is Margritz’s fifth year at Hope. He also is an assistant football coach who oversees linebackers.

Read a written transcript of the podcast interview.

Hope Athletics Podcast: Scott Lokers, Men’s Golf

Scott Lokers smiles as he walks on the golf course at Wuskowhan Players Club. Lynne Powe/Hope College

Head coach Scott Lokers shares his insights on the Hope College men’s golf team in this week’s edition of the Hope Athletics Orange and Blue Podcast with sports information director Alan Babbitt.

Lokers is in his fourth season leading the Flying Dutchmen on the links. He has guided Hope to two NCAA Division III Championship appearances and two Top-10 finishes at nationals during his tenure. The Flying Dutchmen were runner-up in the MIAA last season.

This season has started in a different and unprecedented fashion. With competition for the Flying Dutchmen and most NCAA Division III schools across the country postponed this fall due to COVID-19 pandemic, their focus is on skill development and building camaraderie.

“We are really young, which …. gives us the opportunity to challenge and the fun part of trying to grow together.”

Head Coach Scott Lokers

Lokers talks about how he and his golfers are trying to make the most of their fall and prepare for competing in the spring. Hope’s roster is composed of 11 golfers: five freshmen, four sophomores, one junior, and one senior. The Flying Dutchmen graduated senior Daniel Settecerri, a 2019-20 College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-American and two-time, All-MIAA golfer.

Luke Tapini (Wayzata, Minnesota) is Hope’s lone returning senior. Austin Zolman (Wyoming, Michigan) is the returning junior. 

Sophomore Jack Crawford (Carmel, Indiana) is another key veteran for Hope. He earned All-MIAA recognition last season after recording the league’s fifth-lowest scoring average: 74.5 over 108 holes last fall.

“We are really young, which …. gives us the opportunity to challenge and the fun part of trying to grow together,” Lokers says.

During the podcast, Lokers also chats about his career as a pastor and consultant for the Reformed Church in America, his own start in the game of golf, how he began coaching with the Flying Dutchmen, and his inspiring 101-year-old father, Ray.

Read a written transcript of the podcast

Ana Tucker: “She’s a Kind of Renaissance Woman”

COVID-19 has unfortunately, and obviously, sidetracked many plans for college student-athletes across the country this year. But sophomore cross country and track student-athlete Ana Tucker has kept her focus forward, making a run at new opportunities and in new directions.

From summer research to freelance art work, from kinesiology classes to running practices, Tucker manages best when her mind and feet are in motion.

And that makes sense for this All-American student-athlete. 

Last year as a freshman, Tucker, a Midland native (Herbert Henry Dow HS), burst onto the Hope, MIAA and NCAA running scene with a fresh display of talent and a fierce competitiveness. 

In cross country, she finished second at the MIAA Championships, fourth at the NCAA Regionals, and 24th at the NCAA Division III Championships to earn All-American honors. In indoor track and field, she claimed second place in the 3,000-meter event at the 2020 MIAA Indoor Track and Field Championships, just behind teammate Anna Frazee ’20, and the two qualified for the NCAA Division III Indoor Meet. 

But as Tucker and Frazee practiced in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on March 12, readying themselves to race the next day, the national championships were abruptly cancelled by the NCAA due to the emerging COVID-19 pandemic. They headed home to Hope with a profound level of shock and disappointment that was just beginning to grip the rest of the country.

It’s a memory Tucker would rather forget. 

Ana Tucker in the 2019 Vanderbilt Invitational, run for the first time on Hope’s campus last fall.

Yet, it’s fraught with motivation for her, too, to keep running after her goals. This past summer, she maintained her average 60 miles a week to be ready for the fall season. While she did so, she also conducted summer research with Dr. Mark Northuis, professor of kinesiology and head cross country coach, on how interventions — such as uphill interval training, plyometrics, speed work and strength training — affect running economy. The work was funded by the Coach Mark Northuis Summer Research Fund, donated by the parents of All-American runner Erin Herrmann ‘17, the Drs. Jay and Maureen Herrmann, and Constantine Family Research Fund.

Also during the summer, Tucker created illustrations for the cover of a new human anatomy laboratory workbook written by Dr. Kirk Brumels, professor of kinesiology and chair of the department, and Dr. Kevin Cole, associate professor of kinesiology and head track and field coach.

Both experiences emanated from and informed her love for her sport and for her academic path at Hope. 

“With research, I really liked independently thinking for myself, going out and finding articles myself and reading them and interpreting them,” says Tucker who is an exercise science major on a pre-physical therapy track. “In classes, everything is already put together for us to learn (by the professor). This is what you have to study. This is what you have to do. But research is more open ended: Here’s your topic, now go write a literature review. That gave me this amazing opportunity to go out and look at things on my own terms, at what really interests me.”

“She’s a kind of Renaissance woman. From art to science to writing to running, she’s just interested in and able to do things well in many capacities.” — Coach Mark Northuis

As for her illustration work, Tucker has loved drawing from an early age. In high school, she took three years of art classes, and at Hope, she has enrolled in basic design and printmaking. She now hopes to work toward an art studio minor.

“It’s really enjoyable to have a class (like art) that’s not science-based like all my other ones,” she says. “I think it actually helps me connect to science more. Doing those drawings (for the lab workbook) made me more excited about knowing anatomy.”

Skull illustration by Ana Tucker

While she worked with Northuis in her first research experience, her coach noticed a natural, an inquisitive, motivated learner who embraced the project with self-determined resolve. “Considering she had just finished her freshman year, she was able to grasp concepts quite quickly in areas that she hadn’t had any classes in yet,” Northuis says. “She just has a very sharp mind and ability to put things together. She’s also a very good and thorough writer.

“She’s a kind of Renaissance woman,” he observes. “From art to science to writing to running, she’s just interested in and able to do things well in many capacities.”

Tucker has already secured a number of academic accolades — Hope’s Dean’s List, MIAA Honor Roll, USTFCCCA Academic All-American. The wholehearted effort she gives in a distance race of any length is the same tact she uses in a physiology lab or printmaking project.  

And, that’s the benefit of studying at a liberal art school like Hope, she says. She is not just a scholar, a runner, an artist, or servant-leader who has coached with Girls on the Run. She is all of those things equally and at the same time. 

Though there are no MIAA races for her, or the team, to run this season, Tucker will “race” in a virtual half marathon later this month — Holland Hospital’s Park2Park. She and her teammates have also run a number of time trials at their practices this season. Through it all, she has been uplifted by the team’s camaraderie and its caring culture, a major determinant that got her to Hope in the first place and now has played out at a heightened level during the pandemic.

“All of the people on the team are still staying pretty motivated and enthusiastic about things,” Tucker declares. “We’ve been doing time trials, and I’ve been seeing a lot of girls get good times. It’s just inspiring to see all of my teammates working so hard and then doing so well even though there’s not any official races.”

Tucker’s own optimistic outlook feeds a good deal of that positive team culture, too. You need to look no farther than her student-athlete bio to find affirmation of that. On that webpage, when asked to recall the best advice she’s ever received, her pre-pandemic response was:

Enjoy the present and don’t stress as much about the future.”

One step, project and experience at a time, Ana Tucker is doing just that.