Midland, MI – With the Grace Christian University women’s cross country team already qualified for Nationals, and the men’s team racing a 6k instead of the typical 8k distance, Saturday’s Northwood University Invitational gave the Tigers an opportunity to put in some work to grow together as a team and get stronger for later in the season.
On the men’s side, the NCCAA requires an 8-kilometer distance race to qualify for Nationals so the Tigers used the race on Saturday as an opportunity to practice running the paces they will need to hit their respective goal times next week at GRCC. Due to local flooding on the trail system at Northwood, the course was temporarily changed to 6 – 1k loops around an open field. Not only did this make the race very spectator friendly but it also created a good opportunity to clock off consistent 1k times, similar to a workout the men often do during practices. Senior Kent Herring (Evart, MI) led the Tigers with a time of 22:23, averaging around 3:44 per kilometer, which was Herring’s goal stepping to the line.
For the Lady Tigers, qualifying as a team in the first meet of the season last week has provided a unique opportunity to both rest some runners and focus on growing together as a team through race strategy. "Knowing that we were really using this meet as a workout, we decided as a team that we would focus on pack running to help our fifth runner set a new personal record," stated Grace head coach Gerry Verwey following the meet.
"I really could not be more proud of the girls. They exhibited true selflessness, classiness, and camaraderie throughout the race helping our fifth runner, Kristian Brandenburg, to a new season record. I told the team after the race that the way they coached each other and ran together during the race will be one of the most significant moments this season to determine our success at Nationals in November," added Verwey. "There is no doubt in my mind that is true and every one of our girls’ actions this season, at both races and practices, will be influential to our final result."
Brandenburg (Twin Lake, MI), a freshman for Grace, finished in a time of 24:54 on a soggy grass course. All told, the spread between all of Grace’s women runners was 3 seconds, a true team effort.
Next up for the Tigers is a meet in their own backyard this coming Friday, September 15. Located at Douglas Walker Park in Byron Center, MI, Grace will be competing in the Grand Rapids Community College "Raider Invite" beginning at 10:30 AM with the men’s 8k race. The women’s 5k will follow. With Homecoming this weekend at Grace, the Tigers are hoping to continue to build on the success of their young season this Friday.