Byron Center, MI – The Grace Christian University cross country teams had a breakout day at Douglas Walker Park on Friday for Grand Rapids Community College’s "Raider Invitational." Twenty-two schools toed the line at the start of the men’s 8k and women’s 5k races, which saw Northwood University dominate the overall team scoring on both sides.
Friday’s meet was the first opportunity of the season for the Tigers men’s team to qualify for the NCCAA National Championships in November as this was the first 8k distance the Tigers have raced this season. Both senior Kent Herring (Evart, MI) and junior Ben Bird (Allendale, MI) punched their tickets to Nationals with their efforts. Bird’s finishing time of 31:14.4 was a new lifetime personal best record for him, which was two minutes faster than his best time last season.
On the women’s side, Grace continues to work to strategically manage the health of their runners with their team qualification already secured for Nationals. As a result, only three runners competed in the race for the Tigers; however, all three worked on racing strategy meant to improve Grace’s overall team performance later this season.
Freshman Kristina Brandenburg (Twin Lake, MI) had a big race, finishing well below the individual qualifying standard for the women’s 5k in 24:13, a goal which she had been shooting for this season. Junior Alyssa Gennety (Jackson, MI) moved up to #8 all-time for cross country at Grace Christian University for the 5k, finishing in a time of 21:41. Sophomore Maty Temrowski (Fenton, MI), who has emerged as a strong leader for the Tigers at practices and meets, made numerous strategic moves during the race that propelled her to a new season best time of 22:41.
"It was a big day for our team," stated Grace head coach Gerry Verwey on Friday. "What impresses me the most is the heart of our team this year. They don’t back down from pressure and actually seem to thrive in it," added Verwey. "Of course, we have a ton of things to improve on but I continue to believe the best is yet to come for this team."
Next up for the cross country squads is a trip down to Louisville, Kentucky for one of the largest cross country meets in the United States. The "Live in Lou Cross Country Classic" on September 30th will be contested at E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park with nearly 50 different teams set to compete in the Tigers divisional race. Stay tuned to gracetigers.com and the team’s social media accounts for future updates.