The Hope College men's and women's swimming/diving teams launch their season Saturday, Oct. 29 with dual meets against conference opponents Olivet and Saint Mary's at Olivet.
The teams will make their home debut on Saturday, Nov. 19 when they host rival Calvin. The season will culminate in March with the NCAA Division III championships in Minneapolis, Minn.
The Flying Dutchmen are the defending Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) champions while the Flying Dutch finished second in the women's standings. The Flying Dutch went on to finish 12th nationally while the Flying Dutchmen ended 13th.
Coach John Patnott begins his 26th season at the helm of the swimming/diving program. His teams have won 28 conference championships - 19 by the women and nine by the men. He has coached 106 NCAA All-Americans and had national Division III champions 30 times. Three times in his career he has been voted the Division III national coach-of-the-year.
This year's teams return a strong nucleus of veterans. The men's pre-season roster has 15 returning letterwinners and includes five freshmen, 10 sophomores, eight juniors and two seniors. The women's pre-season roster has 11 returning letterwinners and includes nine freshmen, two sophomores, six juniors and five seniors.
Five seniors are co-captains of the women's team - Lisa Baran of South Lyon (South Lyon HS), Lisa Ekdom of Holland (Holland Christian HS), Meagan O'Neil of Troy (Troy HS), Ashley Tillman of Birmingham (Seaholm HS), and Erica VanGilder of Scarborough, Me. (Midland, Mich. HS). Co-captains of the men's team are senior Kurtis Blohm of Wilmington, Ohio (Wilmington HS), junior Karl Hoesch of Zeeland (Zeeland HS), junior Jacob Holton of Chelsea (Chelsea HS), and junior Kyle Waterstone of Holland (Holland HS).
The teams include four swimmers who achieved NCAA Division III All-America status a year ago - junior Kurtis Blohm, senior Lisa Ekdom, junior Abram Glas of Kalamazoo (Plainwell HS), sophomore Trisha Meier of Cedar Park, Tex. (Naperville North, Ill. HS), and junior Lisa Smith of Zeeland (Zeeland HS).
At the 2005 nationals, hosted by Hope at the Holland Aquatic Center, Blohm was the silver medalist in the 50-yard freestyle. He also placed ninth in the 100-yard backstroke and 11th in the 100-yard freestyle. He earlier was a triple champion at the MIAA championships, winning the gold medal in the 50 and 100 free and 100 back. His times in the 50 free and 100 back are MIAA records.
Smith achieved All-America honors at the women's nationals with a fourth place finish in the 100-yard butterfly.
Other returning swimmers who achieved All-MIAA honors a year ago are junior Sarah Diekevers of Jenison (Jenison HS), sophomore Dan Gardner of Alma (Alma HS), and senior Megan O'Neil. Gardner was the conference champion in the 500 and 1,650 yard freestyle.