ZEELAND — Anna Sluiter spends a good portion of her year with her head down in the water, trying to touch the wall first.


That strength and speed led her to be an all-state swimmer for Zeeland.


But in the spring, Sluiter spends her time soaring.


Not in the water, but over hurdles and through the air.


Sluiter was less than a second from also becoming an all-state hurdler at Zeeland East last spring, and was looking to achieve that goal this spring before the coronavirus canceled the season.


But as a junior, Sluiter, still has an entire year to dominate in the pool and on the track.


“It was a big bummer. Our team as a whole had really high hopes and I had some big personal goals that I was looking toward. It stinks, but everything is in the same situation,” Sluiter said. “I am very glad that I am a junior and will still have next year. That is what is keeping me motivated right now. In swimming, All-State in our relay so a big goal of mine was to get all-state in track as well. I will still have next year to go for it.”


Sluiter finished 13th in the 100-meter hurdles last spring, along the way, helping Zeeland East win the conference, regional and MITCA team state championships.


“Anna attacked winter training with a resolve I've rarely seen,” Zeeland East coach Josh Vork said. “She felt like she had a real opportunity to earn all-state honors in the 100 hurdles this spring and was determined to give herself the best chance possible to do that, and looked as good as anyone can hurdling in the hallways. She really stepped up as the leader of the hurdle group in May last year and had that whole group looking great heading into the season.”


Watching a teammate in the hurdles helped inspire Sluiter. Last year, senior Jocelyn Jarzembowki was put in the hurdles on a whim by Vork. She went on to win the OK Green Conference title in the 300 hurdles and qualify for the state meet.


“It was crazy to me. She was very new to hurdles, but she was such an all-around great athlete that she was able to do it. That is what keeps me going hard. I want to be able to use my athleticism in that way,” Sluiter said. “It was a big inspiration.”


It brought the best out of Sluiter as the stages got bigger. She also had a strong long jump, going a 15 feet, 8 inches.


“During practice, you work on explosiveness a lot. That helped me get better. I tried high jump, and I wasn’t super great at it, but it helped with the springiness,” Sluiter said. “They are very similar with having to be explosive, but it is a little bit different type of explosiveness. They start with the same kind of idea.”


Sluiter started hurdling in the eighth grade, but got even stronger when her legs hit a growth spurt. Already athletic, her long legs are perfect for hurdling.


“Definitely my long legs help a lot. It helps a lot in three-stepping between hurdles. I was able to figure that out sophomore year,” she said.


Her long legs have helped her as a swimmer as well, earning all-state on a relay and qualifying for the Division 1 state meet.


“I feel like most people if they swim, they do water polo, or swim all year. Or track athletes do cross country. It is kind of two opposite sports,” she said. “It means a lot to me because I am able to be friends with a wider range of people. It helps me be a better all-around athlete, which I enjoy a lot.”


Her athleticism allows her body to be all-state caliber in two very different sports — different motions, different muscles and different goals.


“For swimming, it is a lot of shoulders involved. Track event is a lot of legs, with that explosiveness and jumping. You have to use your hip flexors. They are very different sports,” she said.


Sluiter had a breakout fall in swimming, like most of her teammates, leading to an exciting season.


“Last swim season was amazing. Everybody had personal bests and big accomplishments all around. Part of what helps us accomplish things as a team is we all get a long,” she said.


Track and field has been exciting too, as Sluiter was part of two MITCA team state championship teams as well as conference and regional titles.


Now, she looks forward to next year on the track when most of her teammates will also return. Despite the losses of several key seniors who scored at the state meet, the Chix were still going to be state title contenders.


“We were definitely aiming for another team state championship. We had a lot of big goals,” she said. “It is kind of crazy. Every year, you lose those seniors who are big contributors. But you get new people and the well-rounded athletes just step up and do what they need to do and our team keeps growing.”


The program continues to soar, just like Sluiter who will soar over hurdles again next year and lead the Chix toward those big goals.


— Follow Sports Editor Dan D’Addona on Twitter @DanDAddona and Facebook @Holland Sentinel Sports.