By Max De Leeuw – Collegiate Staff
After lying dormant for many years, the Grand Rapids Community College cross-country team has returned and is ready for a season of competition.
The mens and womens teams will be led by head coach Matt Sicilia and assistant coaches Dave VanderMeer and Julia Contreras.
The team’s first practice was Aug.18 with the first race scheduled for Aug. 29. Sicilia wants to begin the season by getting the runners into shape. Victory doesn’t have to come right off the bat.
“The season is a process and the first race is a step towards where we want to be at the end of the season,” Sicilia said. “Every race that follows is a stepping stone.”
Sicilia has been involved with the sport since he was a Freshman in high school. After breaking his wrist soon before baseball tryouts, he was unable to pursue his interest in that sport.
Instead he turned to track, and two years later, cross-country. He has been running ever since.
It was at Calvin College that he met a sprinter, his wife-to-be. After graduating, he coached Calvin Christian High School’s track team for 10 years. During some of that time, he was the Athletic Director and a Physical Education teacher at Excel Charter Academy, a local middle school. Sicilia is taking on the Raider coaching position in addition to his responsibilities at Excel.
Sicilia runs about four days a week and typically runs between 5 to 10 races per year. In years past, he has run a race with each of his three kids while they were still young enough to be pushed in a stroller, winning one.
While athleticism is key to any successful sports team, Sicilia also wants to focus on team cohesion.
“To build a strong team atmosphere: That would probably be the highest goal,” Sicilia said. “In a team-centered environment, every time you’re starting a race, you look at your teammates next to you, and you know they are going to run their best, and it will push you to do the same.”
The teams are still in need of more runners. The womens team currently has 5 runners and the mens team has 6. While this is still enough to run in normal races, the head coach would like to see more people join the teams until they both have 12 athletes.
Sicilia said that he will still be looking for runners until Sept. 3.