Grand Valley Magazine Summer 2016 - 16

AT HL ETI C S Crushing records International student adjusts to American standards, becomes national champion by Dottie Barnes | photo by Amanda Pitts Remember in the 1970s when the U.S. was going to completely convert to the metric system? The difference between meters and yards may seem small, but Leonie Van Noort, a freestyle swimmer on the Laker women's team, said the difference "messed up my whole stroke." Van Noort, a junior majoring in marketing, transferred to Grand Valley in 2015. An international student from Leiden, Netherlands, she was used to competing in distances measured in meters. It's safe to say that - by any measure - she adjusted quickly to American pools during her first season on the team. "Leonie is our first-ever national champion on the women's side," said head coach Andy Boyce. "She earned the title in two events - the 200- and 1,650-yard freestyle, and swam both in record-breaking time for Grand Valley." In fact, when the season ended in March, Van Noort had broken four additional Grand Valley records - in the 100- (50.92), 500- (4:47.25) and 1,000-yard (9:52:51) freestyle, and also in the 200 back (2:00.65). She knocked 0.5 seconds off the record for the 100 freestyle set in 2011, and four seconds off the 200 freestyle set in 2014. She crushed the records for the 500-, 1,000- and 1,650 freestyle (by 9 seconds, nearly 14 seconds and nearly 26 seconds, respectively). She was also a member of the 800-yard freestyle relay team that set a new record this year (7:23.58). Van Noort is poised to break national records next year. "My goal for next year is to break the national record in the 1,000-yard freestyle," she said. "I went 9:52 this year and the national record is 9:50. I'm aiming for 9:48." Not bad for someone who cried at age 5 because she hated swimming so much. Swimming lessons are mandatory in the Netherlands and Van Noort said, eventually, she got used to it. She said her mother used to swim, her father can't swim and her two older brothers don't swim. But, there are pictures of her 16 Summer '16 grandfather swimming competitively. "I think I get my talent from my grandfather. When I realized I was a good swimmer, I stuck with it," she said. Van Noort won her first national competition for her age group at 11. She said she had good coaches in the Netherlands who taught her proper technique, like how to breathe every three strokes instead of every two. "I worked hard to get that down; many people don't," she said. Grand Valley was on her radar after she saw the success of her friend Sven Kardol, who came to Grand Valley from the Netherlands in 2012 to compete on the men's swim team. Van Noort said since arriving at the university, she's worked hard with long distance coach slide over to the men's lanes and push them, and they push her. So, it's a good combination." Van Noort said she loves being on a team and values the support teammates give each other. "I was used to swimming alone at home because no one really swims long distance there," she said. "Here, I have a whole team around me and that's amazing. It has really helped me a lot. They push you in whatever you do." Van Noort said she and her teammates are counting on being GLIAC champs next year; they placed second this year. Van Noort placed first in the 200-, 500-, 1,000- and 1,650-yard freestyles at the GLIAC Championships in February. "I have a whole team around me ... They push you in whatever you do." Leonie Van Noort Justin Vasquez to transition from being an open water swimmer. "Leonie is a very focused swimmer and very competitive," said Vasquez. "When you combine those characteristics, focusing on the little details and the process of getting better daily with the spirit of competing, you have a special athlete - someone who is going to accomplish great things. That's what you get in Leonie." Van Noort said practices here are more intense and that has been good for her. "Coach Justin has been working with me to keep my head low when I breathe and not to breathe coming off the wall," she said. The national champion is known for "attacking practice" and motivating all her teammates. "She will get out there and push the men," said Boyce. "She will Leonie Van Noort won two individual titles (200- and 1,650-yard freestyle) at the NCAA Division II Swimming and Diving National Championships.

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Grand Valley Magazine Summer 2016

Campus News
Donor Impact
Q&A Erika King
Not your average spring break
Life stories
Off the Path
Fall Arts Celebration
Alumni News

Grand Valley Magazine Summer 2016