After sending the men’s team and now sophomore Renee Buikema to Vancouver, Washington for the National Championship last year, both the men and women’s cross country teams look to expand on that success this season.
The women’s team started off with a pre-season rank of 15th in the national poll. Since then, they have had a few strong races and have moved up two spots to number 13. While they don’t seem to have a clear cut front runner, they boast one of the athletically deepest teams Coach Greg Van Dyke has had in his seven years of coaching.
“We have a lot of depth which is exciting because the focus is on team performance rather than individual successes,” said women’s captain Merissa Harkema. “We have some strong packs to run in and can rely on each other for motivation and support. I feel that the cohesiveness and servant-attitude of the team this year is the best of any team I have been on.”
The men’s team gained some national attention as well as they were able to receive votes to be placed in the top 25. After putting in anywhere from 300-500 miles of running during the summer, the men are looking to make a strong end season push.
“Right now we’re definitely in the ‘building’ stage. We’re really pushing ourselves with hard workouts and high mileage,” said men’s captain Ryan Tholen. “Since we’re at a different training stage, it’s not so easy to see where we stack up against our competition. But we’re looking to come on strong as the season progresses.
The main theme that both teams have really been trying to stress this year is the idea of teamwork, which might not be the first thing that comes to mind when talking about a running event. Support is going to be needed as they enter some of the toughest training they have yet to face. Coach Van Dyke started off their season thinking about the passage Mark 10:45: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many.”
“As Christians, it’s our calling to be servant-minded and servant-hearted. Our focus is to serve each other as teammates and serve those we come in contact with throughout the season,” said Van Dyke.
Both teams have the GPAC Championships on Nov. 3 at McCook Lake, South Dakota, and then hope to be running at the NAIA National Championships on Nov. 17.
Justin Pastoor, Sports Editor