The Grand Rapids Community College cross country teams competed in the Calvin Knight Invitational at Calvin College on Saturday, Sept. 8, with the men’s team finishing first amongst all other community colleges that were competing.
GRCC did not enter the entire women’s team, but did have two female runners compete in the women’s 5,000 meter race. GRCC Cross Country Head Coach Matt Sicilia discussed his decision to not race the entire women’s team in the season’s opening heat.
“There’s several on the women’s team that are new to cross country,” Sicilia said. “Just based on their experience and what they’ve shown in practices, we’re really trying to train them up at this point to be able to handle a race and I didn’t think they were quite ready for that.”
The two runners for the women’s team who did compete were freshman Hannah Jefferis and sophomore Edith Jesang. Jefferis finished the race in 141st place with a time of 20:42.8 while Jesang finished 100 spots back of her teammate with a time of 22:55.2.
“Hannah ran well, good opener, tremendous finish the last half mile. That was kind of the highlight for her,” Sicilia said. “Edith struggled a little bit. I think maybe she went out a little bit too fast in the first mile. As what often happens with that, when you’re out a little bit too quick, your body just starts shutting down. So she struggled a little bit but the main message that I preach to them is every race is kind of a necessary step to get us where we want to be by the end of the year.”
The men’s team was full go in the men’s 8,000 meter race and had their experienced sophomores leading the way for the Raiders. Sophomore Sam Borisch was the top runner for GRCC. He came close to setting a new school record and also was the top placing runner from a community college. Borisch finished 56th overall with a finishing time of 26:34.4. His teammate, Trystan Thayer finished 82nd overall with a time of 26:56.8.
“Overall as a team, very, very impressive from the guys,” Sicilia said. “Everybody at least had a good race and a handful of them had a great race.”
Sicilia talked about Borisch’s race, the time he set and how close he was to setting a new school record.
“Borisch was our No. 1, ran a personal best time, the No. 2 time ever for Grand Rapids Community College cross country history (the record was set last season by former GRCC runner Chris Santana with a time of 26:15),” Sicilia said. “Five minutes and 15 (seconds) per mile was his average pace. He was close to cracking the top 50 and…the Calvin race is probably the most competitive race we’ll be in all year including nationals…24 out of the 27 schools were four-year colleges.”
Thayer finished second on the team despite facing a major obstacle in the race that would slow down most people.
“Trystan, our No. 2 lost a shoe at the half mile mark into the race,” Sicilia said. “With 300 guys, somebody clipped just the very back of his heel from behind and his shoe just yanked right off. So he ran four and a half miles with one spike on and one bare foot and still was our number two, still set an all-time record for himself personally…which shows the progress he’s made from last year.”
Sicilia also wanted to highlight the progress of some of his young guys, particularly sophomore runner Matthew Spees.
“He (Spees) was kind of middle to back of the pack on his high school team a couple of years ago,” Sicilia said. “He’s actually a sophomore for school but it’s his first year running on our team. He’s run a lot but just since he’s started practicing about a month ago, he’s really taken himself to a new level. His pace per mile for the 8K…was faster than he ever ran in high school for a 5K which is almost unheard of to do this early in the season.”
Spees finished fourth on the team and 247th overall with a time of 29:38.2. The top newcomer to the team was Dallas Mora. Mora finished third on the team and 230th overall with a time of 28:36.6.
“He (Mora) had kind of an ok race for his first one,” Sicilia said. “He’s been running a lot more than he did in high school, so I think his legs are maybe a little bit tired. It was his first 8K ever and he’s not done any road races or anything longer than 5K so I think this was kind of mentally a little bit of a challenge for him running that extra distance. But I see nothing but a really strong season from him moving forward.”
Sicilia was happy with the way his team performed but knows there is always room for improvement. He talked about what he wants to see out of his team going forward and how they plan to accomplish their goals.
“This Friday we’ve got a really hard workout and I really only like to race about every other week for the most part,” Sicilia said. “Just because the workouts throughout the season are building our fitness. So everytime they race, ideally they’re another step ahead of where they were the last time.”
The Raiders’ next scheduled race is Friday, Sept. 21 against Kirtland Community College in Gaylord, Michigan. This creates a conflict for the team as they’re scheduled to host the GRCC Raider Invitational the next day on Saturday, Sept. 22 at Riverside Park. This is the first home match of the season but Sicilia has not yet decided if members of his team will race in the event at Riverside Park.
“Either we may have one or two people run or we may not have anybody run,” Sicilia said.