J-Club Hall of Honor Class of 2022: Jon Habben ’79

The J-Club | Hall of honor of the J-Club

By Frank Rajkowski, SJU Writer/Video Producer

COLLEGEVILLE, Minn. – Pat Haws ’72 was hired as the first full-time swimming and diving coach at Saint John’s University in 1973.

But it wasn’t until two years later that he landed what he considered his first top-notch recruit. His name was Jon Habben ’79, and he had twice qualified for the state middle distance competition at Willmar High School.

“I had talked to other people, but he was the first guy I really chased,” recalled Haws, who remained the Johnnies’ head swimming and diving coach until 1998. “I put in a lot of work, and I remember being so excited when he told me he was coming here.”

History has proven that the excitement was warranted as Habben – who transitioned to sprints at the college level – won eight MIAC titles and qualified for national competition four times (twice at the NAIA level and twice in NCAA Division III).

His freshman 50-yard freestyle win at the 1976 MIAC meet made him the first SJU swimmer to hit the wall as a conference champion, and his 10th-place finish in the same event at the Division III national meet. in 1978 made him the first All-American in program history.

Others also won the same honors in those two encounters, but Habben’s exploits came first.

“I never made it to the podium in the state meet in high school, so that kind of success was all new to me,” said Habben, who was also a member of Willmar’s football team and played in the Class A state championship game as a junior in the fall of 1973.

“Suddenly I was a freshman in college and one of the top seeds in my events against successful State/Division III competitive swimmers. The experience of our entire team on the pool deck at the MIAC Championships versus just two or -three of us at the state swim meet was so different to me. The cheers coming from SJU’s pool area at each event were unbelievable and – when combined with Pat’s late-season shrinkage, shaving and confidence – it made it pretty easy to perform well and be successful at the MIAC Championships.”

Habben – who was inducted into the Willmar High School Hall of Fame in 2010 – said the faith Haws had in him also made a big difference.

“I used to have a routine that I did before practice where I did 200 sit-ups,” said Habben, who went on to a long career with Gold’n Plump after graduation. “I was busy doing this on the side one day when Pat walked into the pool with a group of potential recruits. He pointed at me and said, ‘This guy is going to be our first national champion.’

“I didn’t quite make it, but it meant a lot to know that he believed in me like that.

“Then there was the support of my parents, family members, high school coaches, roommates and fellow swimmers,” he continued. “My parents had three kids who swam, and rumor has it they’ve only missed a grand total of one meet over the years. All of those people have believed in me over the years.”

Its success has made such faith easy to grant. As a rookie, Habben finished first in the MIAC meet in the 50, 100, and 400 freestyle relays while adding a second-place finish in the 200. He repeated as the conference champion in all three events as a sophomore and finished 15th to 50th at the NAIA national meet.

As a junior, he won the 50 and 400 freestyle relays in the conference meet, then followed that up with a 10th-place finish in the 50, 11th-place finish in the 100 and 12th-place finish in the Division III national championship relay. to encounter.

“Right off the bat he was so good,” Haws said. “He had such intensity. I remember when he was waiting to swim his leg from a relay, he was up there grinding the soles of his feet into the starting blocks – just getting ready to go.

“I was sitting at the bottom of the pool when he won his first MIAC championship,” he continued. “He finished in the shallow end. At the time, they timed me with a schedule. But somehow I got there fast enough to greet him when he came out. It was a moment quite memorable.”

One of many Habben supplied during his four years at Collegeville.

“Those were memorable times,” said Habben, who shared a room with legendary SJU basketball player Frank Wachlarowicz ’79 for a time during their senior year in 1978-79. “Warner Palestra had just opened and I went from swimming in a small murky five lane pool in high school to this brand new large eight lane pool – featuring a 1 and 3 meter diving board and a 5 meter tower. t was easy to imagine the Warner Palestra as my new ‘home’ for the next four years.

“SJU has had a lot of very, very good swimmers and divers, including the originals who led the way, and I feel extremely lucky to be a part of that history. I loved every minute of my time in Saint John’s. “

Hall of Honor Class of 2022

The Class of 2022 of student-athletes, coaches and volunteers will be inducted into the Saint John’s University J-Club Hall of Honor at a ceremony scheduled for Homecoming Saturday – October 1 – at Guild Hall (Old Gym).

The dinner and induction ceremony begin at 5:15 p.m. Registration is $75 per person until September 25 ($100 per person after) and includes dinner and drinks. All proceeds go to the J-Club to support SJU athletics.

To register click here.

-2022 J-Club Hall of Honor Class: Minga Batsukh ’11
-2022 J-Club Hall of Honor Class: Cyril Paul ’59
-2022 J-Club Hall of Honor Class: Tim Schmitz ’78
-2022 J-Club Hall of Honor Class: Br. Mark Kelly, BSF
-2022 J-Club Hall of Honor Class: Troy Bigalke ’01
-SJU to induct 11 into the J-Club Hall of Honor on October 1

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