By Sean Chase
After unprecedented success, the Grand Rapids Community College Cross Country teams have moved up in the top 10 of the National Junior College Athletic Association’s Division II rankings.
The GRCC women’s team moved up one position in the NJCAA top 10, from fifth to fourth. While the men’s team climbed up two positions to eighth in the nation when last week’s poll was released.
“This year, we have built on that 2019 season (as well as the history that Sicilia restarted in 2014),” said Assistant Coach Sharon Becker. “We are better and stronger this year. We are now ranked 4th in the nation. The team is not taking this for granted. Four is a number just like one, two, or 10. Four has four letters just like “team,” “work,” “goal,” or “done.” The team understands the work that was done to get here, and also that there is work that still needs to be done this season to reach our goal(s).”
This is yet another milestone, in a season that has seen both teams arrive at the halfway point undefeated. As runners, sophomore, Kiah Becker, and freshman, Joshua Kipkoech have finished first overall at every invitational.
These rankings come on the heels of Kipkoech being named NJCAA runner of the week, for the week of Sept. 21.
Success will not phase the only GRCC team competing this fall, as Head Coach Matt Sicilia has consistently focused on maintaining a team first mentality in both programs.
“Our primary goal is to guide each runner to be the best teammate and best runner they can be during the time when we’re together,” said Sicilia, when asked about the most recent rankings. “We want to inspire and motivate them to be great at all that they do in their own time, too- to make the world a better place for those that they meet and work with.”
The teams are keeping their heads down, striving for the best result possible on favorable terrain, as the level of competition increases at University Park Golf Course, in Muskegon, where they will face runners from outside of their conference, for the first time this season.
“We are focused on the Muskegon race right now, and the goal is to use the elite competition to get the best out of each runner, and be risk takers,” said Sicilia. “This may be even better competition than the national meet, so we look forward to facing this challenge head on as a team.”
The GRCC cross country teams head to Muskegon this Saturday, Oct. 17, for the Jayhawk Invitational. Where the women’s race starts at 2 p.m. and the men’s race scheduled for 2:45 p.m.