Many athletes select a college where they can best excel in their sport. But swimmer Dan Van Hemert, 18, a recent Glenelg High graduate, picked Northwestern University because of the school's top-notch radio/TV/film department.
"They are supposed to be one of the top three or four film departments in the country," said Van Hemert, who had a 3.7 grade-point average his senior year at Glenelg and will be attending the Illinois university on a full athletic scholarship. "That's important to me. I would like to be a filmmaker someday."
Van Hemert, considered part of one of the nation's best recruiting classes, also chose the school because of its rising men's swimming program. Four years ago, a joke circulated among Big 10 schools that the Wildcats' program was 20th-best in a conference of 10 schools. Last year, the Wildcats finished ninth out of 11 teams, marking the first time the squad didn't finish in the conference's basement in 15 years.
"Right now, Northwestern has a good program, but they haven't broken through to the NCAAs," said Van Hemert, a versatile swimmer who specializes in the butterfly. This recruiting class, he said, "could be the building blocks of a great team.
"I can come in with the other recruits and give them a winning record in dual meets. I can come in and make the NCAAs. I don't think they have anyone that can do that now." Another June high school graduate, Cheryl White, 18, of Mount Hebron, received a full athletic scholarship to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.
Like Van Hemert, White has star potential.
"She swims at a national level in so many different events,"
Tennessee women's swimming coach Pete Raykovich said. "I think she is a versatile swimmer and can help us in many different ways. She is proficient in the butterfly, backstroke, freestyle and individual medley. If there were a half-dozen swimmers in the country like her, we would be lucky." "My times right now qualify me for the NCAAs," White said.
Undecided about her major, White is considering sports medicine, psychology and pre-law. Both swimmers compete for the UMBC Retriever Aquatic Club. Next month, White and Van Hemert will participate in the senior national championships in Mission Viejo, Calif.
The recruiting for both of the budding stars was fierce.
UCLA finished second for Van Hemert's services. Florida, North Carolina State and Michigan also pursued him. Arizona, Arizona State, USC, Virginia and Michigan coveted White. "Some of the best schools in the country were chasing them," UMBC coach Sid Burkot said, "some top 10 schools."
UMBC has served as a pipeline to college swimming programs in recent years.
The program currently has sent swimmers to Clemson, Missouri, Penn State, West Virginia and several other schools.
Five other county residents and Retrievers will attend schools on scholarship this fall, including Missy Zipf (Wilde Lake-James Madison), Jay Calvert (Mount Hebron-Naval Academy), Anna Butler (Centennial-UMBC), Michael Gibeau (Hammond-UMBC) and David Miller (Centennial-UMBC). Four of the five will compete in the junior nationals next month.