By Kaia Zimmerman
The Grand Rapids Community College cross country teams will kick off their season on Saturday, Sept. 4 at the Calvin Knight Invitational.
The women’s team will be led by first-year head coach Sharon Becker. Becker has been a part of the program since 2016, and formerly served as an assistant coach for the Raiders.
Audrey Meyering, a redshirt freshman preparing for her second season with the Raiders, will look to continue her dominance this upcoming season. Meyering was named Michigan Community College Athletic Association (MCCAA) Runner of the Year and Freshman of the Year during her first season with the Raiders. She ran a personal record of 19:51 at nationals, securing National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Second Team All-American honors.
“Audrey is definitely our number one athlete,” Becker said. “I am super excited that she came back… People are going to be looking at her to be right up in front.”
The women’s team had a successful 2020-21 season, including a fourth-place finish in the national tournament. The Raiders also brought home the MCCAA and NJCAA Region XII Championship.
This year, their goal is to replicate what they were able to achieve last year, but they also want to focus on the mental aspect of the sport and working as a team.
“First, I would want us to finish in the top two or three in the conference, but our team is small, so with the people we have it’s a little more difficult to run against bigger teams,” Becker said. “… I’d rather get second or third place and have a team of girls that are learning to be stronger, and after cross country they are going to be able to deal with their problems more. (My goal) is that I communicate with the girls and teach them how to communicate with each other.”
Meanwhile, GRCC’s men’s team will be led by first-year head coach Garret Lacy. He was previously an assistant coach for GRCC and the head coach at Cedar Springs High School for five years.
The men’s team will have one of the biggest teams in GRCC history this season with 15 runners.
“I’m excited to see 15 guys line up on the starting line for the first time,” Lacy said. “When I first came a few years ago we only had five or six guys, so to put 15 out there this year and truly have a full, large team like that. Just to see them take off at the starting line is going to be a really cool sight to see.”
GRCC’s top runner and player to watch, redshirt-freshman Joshua Kipkoech, will be returning for his second year with the Raiders. During his first year, he was the Region XII and MCCAA champion with a time of 26:10. He also earned NJCAA DII First Team All-American, All-Region, MCCAA Runner of the Year, MCCAA All-Freshman, and MCCAA Freshman of the Year.
The men’s team will look to carry momentum from last season’s success, as they placed ninth at nationals and won the MCCAA and NJCAA Region XII Championship. They also placed first in four out of the six meets they competed in.
“Last year we were the conference and regional champions, so one of our big team goals is to defend both of those titles,” Lacy said. “Nationally, last year we finished ninth at the NJCAA Division II national championships, so one of our big team goals is to be in the top three.”
The Calvin Knight Invitational will commence with women’s competition at 10 a.m., with the men following shortly after at 10:45 a.m. The match will be held at the Gainey Athletic Complex.