By Sean Chase
Off to a red-hot start to their season, the Grand Rapids Community College Raiders turned their focus toward the intense terrain of Grayling. On Oct. 2, the Raiders traveled to the Kirtland Firebird Invitational, placing first overall in both the men’s and women’s races for the third time this season.
Before the race, freshman Joshua Kipkoech was named NJCAA Division II Runner of the Week. When asked about the honor, Kipkoech said, “It made me feel amazing, seeing how proud my teammates and coaches were of my accomplishment.”
Sophomore Kiah Becker won the women’s overall 5k on Friday with a time of 21:07. Kipkoech won the men’s overall 8k, crossing the line with a time of 27:08.
The women’s team finished the meet with 38 points, only 13 points ahead of the second-place finisher. The men’s team continued to outpace the competition, finishing the meet with 43 points, 44 points ahead of the runners-up.
Head Coach Matt Sicilia has focused on creating a team-first mindset this season, hoping to have runners stick together, when possible, to motivate each other.
“Oftentimes that includes having groups of two, three, four, five, however many are similar abilities running together side by side for a good portion of the first half of the race, if not longer,” Sicilia said. “That really helps them stay motivated, when the going gets tough.”
Also competing for the GRCC men’s team was Jack Kehoe, sixth overall, with a time of 28:18, Lance Jourdan at 28:29, ninth overall, Wilson Ishimwe at 28:30,10th overall, Noah Peterson at 28:56, Gabe Sanchez at 29:44, Ashton Brennen at 29:51, Devin Simon at 30:17, Rafael Vega at 33:19, Ceasar Vargas at 33:57, and Joseph Williams at 38:35.
The women’s runners were Audrey Meyering, fifth overall, with a time of 21:28, Carolanne Merlington at 21:32, sixth overall, Kathryn DeLeeuw at 21:44, ninth overall, Elizabeth Meyering at 22:37, Allison Hoop at 22:50, Paige Bodine at 23:45, Bree Bonnema at 23:55, Alex Webster at 23:57, Mariah Vos at 24:05, Angel Stewart at 24:26, Jennifer Franz at 28:09, and Ely Horling at 29:42.
The NJCAA DII Coaches polls released on Sept. 23, have the GRCC men’s and women’s teams maintaining their position in the rankings, at 10th and fifth in the country respectively.
“We’re really looking forward to Muskegon in a couple weeks, the competition there will be better than what we’ve seen all year,” said Sicilia. “We’ll have some runners from other NCAA schools in the mix with us.”
The teams have two weeks off before they head to Muskegon, Saturday, Oct. 17, for the Jayhawk Invitational.