family of two sons, mom and aunt stand together smiling by swimming pool


icon of a calendarAugust 5th, 2019

icon of a pencilBy Adam DePollo

Swim Family Tradition

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Robert Hall

This February, Oakland University’s men’s and women’s swim teams were both crowned the 2019 Horizon League Champions, continuing an impressive run of championship success for the Golden Grizzlies — 41 consecutive league titles for the men’s team, and 25 consecutive titles for the women.

Hundreds of swimmers have helped secure that long string of victories, but one family in particular has had an oversized impact on the history of swimming at OU.

two male swimmers with caps and goggles in water
family of two sons, mom and aunt stand together smiling by swimming pool
two male swimmers with caps and goggles standing in water
two male swimmer jumping into water
two male swimmers underwater
family of two sons, mom and aunt stand together smiling by swimming pool

From 1985-88, Nancy (Schermer) DeJonge and Jeff Cooper were rock stars on the men’s and women’s teams. Cooper was named All-American 13 times in those three years, and Nancy secured 24 All-American nods while setting 14 different school and pool records. She would go on to be inducted into Oakland Athletics Hall of Honor in 1994.

Historical photo of Nancy DeJonge on swim teamShortly after Jeff and Nancy graduated from the University, Nancy’s sister, Lynae, began making waves herself on the women’s team. From 1989-92, she was named All-American a whopping 27 times while securing seven national champion titles. She followed her sister into the Hall of Honor in 1998.

Jeff and Lynae eventually married. Nancy, meanwhile, married and has two sons, Philip and Micah, who are keeping the OU family tradition alive by swimming the 500 meter, 1000 meter, and mile events for Oakland’s men’s team, which now competes in NCAA Division I.

Philip, a freshman, is two years behind Micah, but the brothers have been swimming together since high school in Zeeland, Michigan. Philip has been enjoying the opportunity to swim with his older brother again at OU.

“Micah really pushes me,” Philip says. “I love that about his training mentality — he always wants to get better. That really helps me, especially in this first year transitioning into the college lifestyle.”

Historical photo of Nancy DeJonge on swim teamFor both brothers, following in their mother, aunt and uncle’s footsteps enhances their own experience of swimming at OU. “Oakland just won its 41st championship, but that goes back to when they were swimming,” Micah says. “We’re on the same consecutive streak as when they were here, so it’s really cool for us to be part of that and help keep it going.”

The brothers are proud of their relatives’ successes, but when asked how they feel about seeing their mom and aunt’s names up on the record board when they’re about to dive into the pool, they say they don’t worry too much about living up to the family name.

“It doesn’t put any pressure on me at all,” Philip says confidently. “Swimming has evolved so much since my mom and my aunt and uncle swam.”

Historical photo of Nancy DeJonge on swim team Both brothers concede that a hint of the family competitive streak has helped them achieve so much in the water.

“When my sons where going through the college decision making process, I prayed they would find a place that would feel like home to them,” says Nancy. “The fact that Micah and Philip have both found that at my alma-mater, is icing on the cake.”

“It feels amazing to know that they live, learn, experience new things, build relationships and of course swim at the same place that I did many years ago,” she says.

Unstoppable force: Pete Hovland

For nearly 40 years, Pete Hovland has led OU’s swimming and diving teams to victory after victory, with 41 consecutive league titles for the men’s team, and 25 consecutive titles for the women. Under his tutelage, the 2019 men’s swimming and diving team became the only institution in Horizon League history to win six consecutive championship titles, and the women’s team has never lost to a conference opponent since joining the Horizon League. On top of his lengthy conference titles streak, Hovland has produced 13 NCAA championship qualifiers, coaching the NCAA Division II Swimmer of the Year in seven of the 18 seasons he coached. Additionally, Hovland has been named conference coach of the year 26 times, and, in 2016, was inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame. Hovland is also tied for second-longest tenured coach (39 seasons) among current NCAA Division I coaches. Prior to becoming head coach, Hovland served as an assistant to Oakland head coach and Oakland Hall of Honor member Ernie Maglischo for two seasons, one of which was Oakland’s NCAA Championship year.

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