Big Rapids, MI – The Grace Christian University cross country teams competed in their second meet of the season on Saturday, racing against tough NCAA Division 2 competition at the Ferris State University Ray Helsing Bulldog Invitational. The field featured host Ferris State, Northern Michigan University, Lake Superior State University, University of Michigan-Dearborn, as well as Rochester University.
Despite a humid morning on a soft Katke Golf Course, the Tigers came into the meet with a plan, which had one simple objective -to run together. "We really treated this meet like a tough workout," commented Grace head coach Gerry Verwey. "Knowing the course was soft and the competition would be strong, we focused on what we needed to do as a team to improve."
The plan was for the top girls to all run together for the entire 5k with the simple task of just making sure everyone hit the qualifying time for Nationals. For the men, it was a buddy system in the 8k race, with the goal of either qualifying for Nationals or simply improving from last week’s race. When the Tigers reached the finish line, almost every box was checked by the Tigers.
Senior Sarena Overbeek (Jenison, MI) and freshman Kierra Flegel (Kent City, MI) both punched their tickets to the NCCAA National Championship race in November with their respective qualifying times on Saturday. Overbeek, who finished in a time of 24:09, has qualified for Nationals all four years of her collegiate career. Flegel bounced back from a rough race the previous week and held back this week to help push her teammates. She finished in a time of 23:19, placing her in the top 10 all-time for women’s cross country 5k times.
Freshman Maty Temrowski (Fenton, MI), after qualifying for Nationals last week, ran a 30 second new season record (23:32) while pack running with her teammates.
Senior Kendra Dieleman (Caledonia, MI) continues to work to bounce back from an injury sustained last fall. Although she did not compete in the race on Saturday, she did run the entire 5k course before the race. Although God’s plan for her this season is still to be revealed, it was an encouraging and exciting moment for the team to see Dieleman on the course.
Freshman Collin Bishop (Rockford, MI) ran a nearly two minute personal best time in the 8k (36:24) with the help of teammate Jonathon Williams (Charlotte, MI).
Williams and junior Kent Herring (Evart, MI) selflessly sacrificed their own personal races on Saturday in order to push their teammates to improved races. Having themselves already secured their spots at Nationals later this fall, their willingness to push their teammates throughout the entire race is indicative of their great character and leadership as young men.
The cross country teams will be in action next in Grand Rapids this coming Saturday, September 17, as Grand Rapids Community College hosts the Raider Invite and the Gainey Athletic Complex. The women will lead off the action in the 5k at 10 AM, followed by the men’s 8k.