GENEVA, Ohio -- Siblings Mary and Josh Hanson are good at just about everything they do.
They’re model students at California Baptist in Riverside, near Los Angeles. They form an excellent singing duo. And oh how they can swim.
Their older sisters, Rachel and Leah, also swam at Cal Baptist before going on to careers in nursing and as a physician’s assistant. So, no, it’s nowhere near a stretch to say that their parents, Grant and Magdelena, an electrical engineer and aquatics director, did well in raising their children.
Both are majoring in electrical and computer engineering, and Mary and Josh have GPAs at or above 3.9 in the last two semesters. They swept the men’s and women’s Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Summit Awards, the conference equivalent of the NCAA Elite 89, presented to the student-athlete with the highest GPA at a given national championship site.
“They really wanted the best for all of us,” Mary, a 21-year-old senior with another year of eligibility remaining at Cal Baptist, said. “They’ve always encouraged us to do what we want to do, and whatever we do, to do it well.”
Both student-athletes have certainly done it well in the classroom, with Beth’s 3.96 GPA to Josh’s 3.9. They’ve always been busy with sports and studies, so striking a balance between the two is really nothing new.
“It’s definitely pretty difficult,” Mary said. “Basically, what I do is try to get everything done right after it’s assigned. I plan throughout the week, figuring out what assignment I have to do when, just to make sure I have it done on time. Kind of the only thing we have time for is swimming and studying.”
Singing? They can do that, too. It wasn’t uncommon for the duo to perform the national anthem at home meets this season, and then, at the RMAC finals at Colorado Mesa, they had an inkling that it might just happen again on the final day of the meet.
They didn’t know for sure, so they prepared for the honor just in case.
Although Mary admitted that singing before such a crowd made her a little jumpy, Josh didn’t seem much worried about it one way or the other. It takes a little bit to get under his skin, and that just wasn’t going to do it.
Asked which had him more on edge that day, singing or swimming, Josh just laughed.
“I don’t know … that’s a good question,” Josh, a 19-year-old sophomore, said. “I’m pretty comfortable singing. We’ve been doing it for most of our lives, so it’s pretty natural to me … and swimming, too. That’s a hard one.”
Singing the national anthem at the conference championships wasn’t just a consolation prize. The Cal Baptist women’s team won the women’s team title, while the men wound up to second to host school Colorado Mesa. It’s a remarkable accomplishment for the school in its first year in NCAA Division II competition, after making the jump from NAIA.
Mary automatically qualified in the 50-meter freestyle and the 100 backstroke, and while she holds school and conference records in both, she ranks second in the nation in both events. She’ll also compete in the 200 backstroke, the 100 freestyle and 400 medley relay, and was invited for the 100 fly.
“The only reason I’m here is to do my best for God,” she said. “With all of the things that are going on and everything that’s stressful with school and swimming together, it’s just really nice to know that He’s watching over me.”
Josh was selected for the 200 and 400 individual medleys, and invited for the 100 and 200 fly and the 200 breaststroke.
Incredibly, not only did Mary and Josh sweep the RMAC Summit Awards this season, they have also named the conference’s Women’s and Men’s Swimmer of the Year. That’s not bad for a pair that was once more concerned about beating each other in the pool as they were anybody else.
They’re brother and sister, after all. What else would you expect?
“Growing up with her, there was that period of time where she was always faster than me,” Josh said. “For a while, I was always racing her and trying to beat her. She’d always beat me. Once puberty hit for me, I started passing her. It’s been great.
“Even now, she’s really good under water. Sometimes in practice, we’ll be racing under water. She’s still pretty good. I have to push sometimes to pass her up. In the past, we were pretty competitive.”