The Grand Rapids Community College men’s and women’s cross country teams hosted the inaugural Raider Invitational this past weekend, finishing fourth for the men and seventh for the women.
The Raiders had a mindset of staying together through the race. Head Coach Matt Sicilia wanted there to be two packs of runners, having the “top couple of guys hang back” in order for the team to do better as a whole.
“Our goal was to have the top couple of guys run with our three, four and five guys because we’ve had about a minute gap between the two so far this season,” said Sicilia. “We did a practice this past Wednesday, working on staying as a group. Our goal was to have our two groups of runners stay with their groups. The second group did a better job with this, but both groups did pretty well.”
Sophomore Kirk Dickson, who finished first on the men’s team with a time of 27:12, agreed that the team did accomplished their goal of staying in packs.
“I think we achieved that today,” said Dickson. “All of us were together through the first three miles. A couple of us were feeling pretty good and I think that helped with the rest of the guys pick it up and run better.”
The coaches and players agreed that having the faster runners slow down and run with the rest of the guys improves the score of the team overall.
“When you run a little bit more conservative with your top runners, you run out of real estate as far as them finishing the best they can possibly do,” said Sicilia. “So I challenged them to sacrifice that for the betterment of the team, and they seem to be on board.”
This strategy has helped the men to now be placed as 12th in the nation for NJCAA Divsion I, helping the team see the benefits of their hard work.
“It’s really cool to achieve that,” Dickson said. “Especially since this is only the third year that GRCC has had cross country.”
The women’s team finished seventh in the invitational and both the coaches and runners were happy with the outcome.
“I think the weather definitely helped with us running faster as well as a pre race pep talk,” said freshman runner Jessica Quist. “We were just trying to keep up with one another and find our pace during the race.”
Both squads are pushing to improve and the GRCC Raider Invitational proved to be “a good stepping stone” for both teams as the season progresses.
The next meet will be at 1:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23, at Lansing Community College in Grand Woods Park, 4500 W Willow Hwy.