Bird Qualifies for Nationals; Women Run Strong at GRCC Invite

Sep 17, 2022 | Cross Country

Grand Rapids, MI – The Grace Christian University cross country teams had another outstanding day, with multiple Tigers running season best times and yet another runner hitting the qualifying time for the NCCAA National Championships.  Shortly after the 10 AM start to the first race of the day, the men’s 8k, temperature quickly soared into the mid-80s as the cloud cover cleared, leading to a very warm and humid meet with a number of competitors dropping out of the race due heat-related issues.  Grace appeared prepared for the conditions, however, and found every runner turning in strong races.

The GRCC "Raider Invite" featured nearly 30 collegiate teams at the Gainey Athletic Complex in Grand Rapids on Saturday, a course that the Tigers are intimately familiar with.  "We have been practicing out here on this course nearly once a week this season," commented Grace head coach Gerry Verwey following the race.  "We’ve had a couple of fantastic weeks of training, especially this past week, and you can just see the big races about to come out of our athletes. As coaches, we keep telling them the hard work at practice will be worth it and the team is starting to see the results," add Verwey

Men’s Highlights:

  • Sophomore Ben Bird (Allendale, MI) became the most recent Tiger to qualify for Nationals by beating the NCCAA DII qualifying standard by 4 seconds.  Grace assistant coach, and proud father, Bill Bird noted that "he made it interesting" by just getting across the finish line in time.  Bird finished the 8k race in 33:56.

  • Freshman Collin Bishop (Rockford, MI) continued to improve by setting a new personal record in the 8k distance, this time by a full minute.  His new time of 35:26 puts Bishop within a minute and a half of qualifying for Nationals.

  • Junior Kent Herring (Evart, MI) and freshman Jonathon Williams (Charlotte, MI) continue to run strong for the Tigers.  Finishing in 31:24 and 32:21, respectively, Herring and Williams are continuing to sharpen their racing tactics in preparation for Nationals.

Women’s Highlights:

  • Freshman Kierra Flegel (Kent City, MI) showed her strength by leading Grace across the line in the women’s 5k race, finishing in a new season-best time of 22:23.  Looking smooth and steady throughout, Flegel showed signs of her potential to be one of the top runners in the NCCAA DII standings this season.

  • Freshman Maty Temrowski  (Fenton, MI) continues to get stronger and faster from her training, finishing only two seconds behind Flegel in a time of 22:25.  Temrowski noticeably accelerated in the race during the descent of a big hill on the course.  "I just decided to power through it," noted Temrowski after the race. 

  • Senior Sarena Overbeek (Jenison, MI) clicked off another season personal best, even after stepping in a hole on the course that created some discomfort for her.  Crossing the line in a time of 23:48, Overbeek demonstrated heart with one of the strongest finishing kicks of her collegiate career as she moved past a competitor in the final meters of the race.

  • Senior Kendra Bonnema (Caledonia, MI) made a successful return to racing for the Tigers, almost a year after an injury sidelined her last season.  Exceeding her own expectations for the race, Dieleman finished in a time of 26:13. 

The Grace cross country squads will now enjoy a couple weeks off from racing and return to action on October 1st in Louisville, Kentucky for the "Live in Lou Cross Country Classic."  The Tigers will use the next couple weeks to continue building strength and speed as they look for more big results to come.

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