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Rick Houston | NCAA.com | March 17, 2016

Calvin swimmers Eli and Ben Holstege take family to nationals

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Way, way, way back in the late 1980s, Calvin’s Chris Holstege barely missed the cut for the track and field national championships in the 110 high hurdles.

One spot better, and he would’ve made it.

Chris’ son, Erik, was close to making the nationals in both the indoor heptathlon and outdoor decathlon last year for Calvin. Close, but not quite.

One spot better, and he would’ve made it.

Another son, Eli, was the first to miss the cut for the NCAA Division III swimming and diving national championships in the 100 breaststroke.

One spot better … you get the picture.

That was then, however. Not only did Eli qualify for the DIII national championship meet here this week, so did his younger brother, Ben. Take that, sports gods. Take that.

“The Holsteges have a thing for barely missing the cut,” said Eli, a junior who will compete in the 200 freestyle relay Thursday and the 100 breaststroke Friday.

“Both my dad and my older brother understood how I must’ve felt, but the big thing both of them told me was that it’s not necessarily about that one meet.

It’s about the season, what you made of it.

“The biggest reason I wasn’t super disappointed last year was because I looked back at that season I had personally. It was one of the best seasons I’ve had personally and the team has had together. I was like, ‘We can build on this and push forward.’”

Eli ran track after the season last year, but when this year’s swimming season rolled around, he struggled a bit. School was school and busy of course, but there was more to it than just that.

A good friend, Nick Del Rosso, was diagnosed with cancer. Nick is doing better now … and so is Eli.

“To be honest, I didn’t swim the 100 breast quite as well as I did in past years,” Eli continued. “It just didn’t come together. There were a lot of other things going on. But in my relay, that’s the one that meant a lot to me.

“I was with Jared Britton, Mitch Schroeder and Brandon Muma and all of us were super pumped. This was a really good chance to get all of us there. We swam our hearts out. The relays are what mean a lot to me, and I’m super pumped to be a part of one this year at nationals.”

Ben and 200 medley relay teammates Johnson Cochran, Muma and Britton placed thirteenth Wednesday to earn All-American honorable mention. He will next compete in the 100 backstroke Friday.

A freshman, Ben made the nationals his first year out of the starting gate.

“It’s kind of a running joke that Holsteges aren’t able to make it to nationals, because it’s happened so many times that we’ve missed it by a spot or two,” Ben added. “They’ve talked about it. They were really excited that Eli and I got to go together this year, and kind of bring the family to nationals and get to see it.

They’re really excited for us to be going.”

The Holsteges live in Charlottesville, Virginia – about smack dab in the center of the state, according to Ben. It’s close enough that the family will be able to make the trip here this week to see the brothers compete.

Their grandparents often attend meets at Calvin, which is located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. And that means everything.

“Every time I look up in the stands and see someone watching me … I know they’re the people I’m swimming for,” Ben said. “It’s a hard sport to do by yourself, without anyone that you’re really competing for. My family’s definitely the ones I’m competing for. So it helps a lot to have them there watching.”