Luther Alumni Magazine

Balancing academics and athletics for the win

Slagel credits balance, team support for success in the pool

Clare Slagel '16
Clare Slagel '16

Clare Slagel ’16, a biology major and champion swimmer from Hempstead High School in Dubuque, Iowa, is a 10-time All-American with two national championships. She has also collected a long list of additional honors over her four years at Luther that reflects her ability to balance hard work in both academics and athletics. 

“I think a big part of being able to manage your time is communication,” Slagel says. “But I also think that it’s coming into the season knowing that you have to sacrifice certain things to be able to have your main focuses be on swimming and academics.”

As much at home in the water as she is studying in Valders or Sampson-Hoffland, Slagel has dedicated herself to swimming five to six months of the year, including two-a-day practices four times per week for most of the swim season. That dedication has paid off. In March, she qualified for the NCAA Division III national championships for the fourth year in a row.

Slagel qualified in the 500 freestyle, 100 backstroke, and 200 backstroke events. She finished the championship meet as national runner-up in the 100 backstroke, becoming a four-time All-American in that event. She finished fourth in 2013, third in 2014, and was the national champion in 2015.

Slagel finished ninth in the 200 backstroke and won the consolation final. She was the national champion in 2014 and finished third in 2013 and 2015. This year, her 500 freestyle preliminary time put her in 12th position, and she chose not to swim the consolation final. Slagel also earned All-America honors as a member of the 200 medley relay team with Erin Connolly ’14, Lexi Scharmer ’16, and Emily Anderson ’17 that placed seventh in 2014.

In February 2016, Slagel was named the Liberal Arts Championships Swimmer of the Year, becoming the first athlete in the history of the championships to earn the title four times.

She says her teammates and coaches contributed in a big way to her individual success. “I’ve had this experience at Luther that I’ve never had with any other team before,” Slagel says. “And I think it’s because of the environment [of the team]. I feel like this year we’re closer as a team than we have ever been.”

She continues, “It’s hard sometimes because you get so tired. And that’s the culture of swimming: you’re always going to be swimming exhausted. But it’s hard not to be motivated and it’s hard not to be dedicated when you have such a strong team behind you.”

With a strong academic record as well, Slagel is also a three-time Iowa Conference Winter Sports All-Academic Team honoree, a three-time CSCAA (College Coaches Swimming Association of America) Scholar All-American, and has twice been named to the CoSIDA Academic All-America team.

Reflecting on her collegiate career, Slagel says, “It is difficult to be done with college swimming,” Slagel says. “But I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities that I have had. I loved competing at [nationals], and having the chance to race so many remarkable athletes will always be a highlight.”

She says she’ll continue swimming, but mostly for pure enjoyment. “I love the sport of swimming, and I love the culture of swimming, but I also love the idea of swimming,” Slagel says. “I think I’ll always continue swimming—more for the enjoyment of the sport.”

Slagel’s next step will be to attend graduate school for veterinary medicine at Iowa State University.


For Serres, every meet celebrates recovery from injury

Tricia Serres '16 trains as she recovers from injury in 2015.
Tricia Serres '16 trains as she recovers from injury in 2015.

Tricia Serres ’16 is always on the run. The biology major and star cross country and track runner packs classes, work study, and a rigorous training plan into each day—a routine that has brought her major success. Between cross country and track, the Platteville, Wis., native has a national title and 10 All-American honors to her name. Most recently, Serres placed fourth in the mile at the NCAA Division III National Championships, her third All-American honor in that event.   “[Being an All-American] is definitely really special,” Serres says. “It’s a work in progress, and I’ve just tried to enjoy the process of it all. I feel very blessed.” Despite her dedication, Serres’s passion for running and her blooming career saw a major slowdown in the late winter/early spring of 2015, when a serious iliotibial band injury sidelined her for several months, threatening to jeopardize her entire track season. “It was definitely challenging, not only physically, but emotionally,” Serres says. “When your teammates are training and you’re not, that’s tough.” She says it took a lot of patience and persistence, but the experience helped her be a stronger runner and athlete overall. Serres eventually overcame the injury and captured the national title in the 1,500 meters at the NCAA III National Championships in May 2015. Coming back from the injury, every meet was a celebration of being able to run, Serres says. “Going into the national meet, I just looked at it as, Wow, this is crazy that I’m here. Whatever happens, happens—I’m just going to be a tough competitor. It was very special.” Serres says she was drawn to Luther by its welcoming community and also because of some incentive from her father, Rob Serres ’82. “I always felt very welcomed,” Serres says. “[There’s] a great community here, and that was something that I really wanted to be a part of. . . . I knew there would be lots of opportunities to pursue other passions and interests, and I think it’s been a great fit for me.” Postgraduation, Serres will pursue physical therapy by enrolling in graduate school at Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa. “I’ve always loved how the body moves, and physical activity, and helping people,” she says. “And I feel like [physical therapy] is a great career avenue for that.” As for running, Serres plans to continue the competitive training and running that have become essential to who she is.

Transfer to Luther brings the fun back to wrestling

Drew Van Anrooy ’16 needed a change in his life. The star wrestler transferred to Luther from Division I Oregon State University after his redshirt sophomore year, looking to revamp both his academics and his athletics. It paid off.

Drew Van Anrooy ’16 displays his NCAA Divison III championship trophy on the winners stand.
Drew Van Anrooy ’16 displays his NCAA Divison III championship trophy on the winners stand.

After finishing runner-up in the 141-pound weight class at the 2015 NCAA Division III National Championships, Van Anrooy captured the national title in the same weight class in 2016. He is now a two-time All-American in addition to his national title, with a career record at Luther of 50-3.

“I couldn’t have ended my competitive collegiate career in a better fashion,” Van Anrooy says. “I feel incredibly blessed to call myself a national champion for the rest of my life.”

Drew and his brother Reed Van Anrooy ’17 accompanied one another in their move to Luther, where they were joined this year by younger brother Cole Van Anrooy ’19. Three years of Division I wrestling had left Drew feeling unbalanced and single-minded.

“I wanted to have a little bit better balance [in my life],” Drew says. “I felt like wrestling was my whole life—[it was] everything I focused on. I wasn’t able to get involved in anything else, really. I wanted a better education as well as a social life, and I thought that I could achieve that at the Division III level.”

Drew explained that his father, Mike, was a wrestler at a Division III liberal arts college, which helped sway Drew to pursue a similar path. Drew was drawn to Luther, specifically, by its combination of excellence in academics and in wrestling.

Drew says that he, his father, and Reed looked at where teams had finished at the national tournament the previous year as well as how the school rated academically. “Luther was up there,” Drew says. “We went on some visits and liked Luther the best.”

Transferring to Luther, Drew says, has made wrestling fun again. “We have a lot of fun as a team,” he says. “I just felt like I could trust the whole coaching staff, and that was a big part to letting me just focus on my wrestling.”

As he closes out his time at Luther, the biology major, who hails from Roseburg, Ore., plans to take a year off from schooling before attending medical school. He would also like to coach wrestling at some level. “I’d like to stay involved with the sport,” Drew says.