The Grand Rapids Community College cross country team competed in a rigorous competition during the Kirtland Community College Invitational at the Hanson Hills Recreation Area on Friday, Sept. 21.
The men’s team finished second overall out of nine teams behind Lansing Community College with Trystan Thayer and Sam Borisch of GRCC finishing third and fourth respectively. The course made for a race that would test all the athletes competing and would see one GRCC runner do something pretty incredible.
“The race was a super tough course,” Borisch said. “It was at a ski slope and there was a section that kind of snaked up the back or the side of the slope, and then back down and you did that twice. We weren’t really going for record times because we were expected to run a little bit slow, it was all about effort and place.”
Even with the challenges of a course built into a ski slope, Thayer actually liked it and had a good time competing in the race.
“It was actually a very enjoyable race,” Thayer said. “Despite the fact that it was so difficult. It was definitely a good challenge for us. I think that it made us better as runners.”
Borisch took a moment to brag on one of his teammate’s accomplishments during the race.
“We had one outstanding performance,” Borisch said. “One of the freshman, Leo (Walquist), managed to get very close (nine seconds) to his actual personal best that he raced on a flat course. So, really excited to see what he does next time.”
The Raiders had multiple obstacles to overcome in this race. The hills, the sand on the hills, high winds and rain were just some of them, but perhaps the biggest obstacle they had to overcome was the absence of their head coach Matt Sicilia. Due to GRCC hosting the GRCC Invitational the next morning, Sicilia had to stay behind and help with the set up.
“I actually did not go, I stayed back and set up the invitational on Saturday,” Sicilia said. “Sharon (Becker) and Dave (VanderMeer) went, my two assistants, and they were sending me video links and pictures throughout and little updates. I talked to them on the way back – that was hard for me not to be there, but just with the way the schedule worked out, our conference changed the conference requirements in April after our home meet was already declared.”
Despite not being there, Sicilia was with his team in spirit through video and pictures and was able to catch up on enough of the race to offer an opinion on his team’s overall performance.
“The men kind of finished as expected,” Sicilia said. “Lansing’s (Community College) kind of been the gold standard for the community colleges in Michigan for a long time…so they have a lot of tradition going on and we have a lot of respect for them. We’re always gunning for the royal blue of Lansing, so we were second to them.”
Overall, the men had four finishers in the top 20. The women also raced at the event, but due to them only having four members, they can’t qualify as a team. The women can however still place individually. Three of the four runners from GRCC’s women’s team finished in the top 25.
“Hannah Jefferis was eighth,” Sicilia said. “So she was in the top 10 which was a very respectable, solid effort for her.”
Sicilia went on to highlight freshman runner Supriya Poelman and said how proud of her effort he was.
“That was (Poelman’s) first 5K of her life,” Sicilia said. “She ran track in high school, but did not run cross country. She’s really having to adjust to the added distance, and I think is doing that really, really admirably. She’s got a great attitude, super hard worker and very, very team focused which is kind of what we stress with our team from day one. So for her to be in top 25 in her first race ever, especially with a challenging course like that…I was really, really happy with her effort for her first race.”
The GRCC cross country team will be back in action on Friday, Oct. 5 when they travel to compete in the Lansing Invitational at Grand Woods Park in Lansing, Michigan. The women run at 1:30 p.m. and the men will start at 2:15 p.m.