The Grand Rapids Community College men’s and women’s cross country teams both placed seventh in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II National Championship with the women’s competing against 26 teams and the men’s team competing against 30 teams.
Men’s head coach Garret Lacy was happy with the team’s performance at nationals and the season overall, especially with the injuries and illness they faced throughout the season.
“We were really excited,” Lacy said. “… Ever since mid-September, we have been dealing with illness and injury, so to finally get to end the season and come away with a seventh place finish at the nationals was a really good thing for us.”
This is the third-highest finish in the men’s program history, as well as the highest finish in the national championship since the sport was reinstated in 2014.
Redshirt-freshman Joshua Kipkoech was the first Raider to cross the finish line, placing 11th overall with a time of 25:55 in the men’s 8K to receive All-American honors in back-to-back years.
Freshman Coleman Clark has been the top runner for Raiders this year, racking up awards such as Michigan Community College Athletic Association Runner of the Year, MCCAA Runner of the Week three times, NJCAA National Runner of the Week and NJCAA Region XII Runner of the Year. Clark ended the season finishing 13th overall at the national championship with a time of 25:58.9 in the men’s 8K to receive All-American honors
“It was real gutsy,” Lacy said about Clark and Kipkoech’s performance. “They went out with the lead pack and tried to stay with them as long as they could, which ultimately they weren’t able to, but to go out harder than they ever gone out before and then hang on to finish 11th and 13th, I would say it was a real gutsy performance from each of them.”
For the women’s team, the team’s average time was 20:18.3, which is the fastest average time of any of the women’s teams in history – leading them to a seventh place finish.
“… As a head coach of Grand Rapids Community College for the first time, I know it is amazing to be part of such a great team,” said first-year head coach Sharon Becker. “I am thrilled that my team finished in seventh place in the nation, and I am overjoyed that I can see two athletes as all Americans. Overall, I am so very proud of the team and I am thrilled that they can celebrate their effort and have no regrets about each of their races.”
The Raiders were led by standout freshman Kaylee Scott, who placed 14th overall with a time of 19:29.5 in the women’s 5K to qualify for All-American honors.
Redshirt-freshman Audrey Meyering placed 15th overall with a time of 19:35.9 in the women’s 5K to receive All-American honors for the second year in a row.
“Kaylee and Audrey are two of the fastest people that GRCC has had on the women’s team,” Becker said. “Since 2014, they are two of only four GRCC women that have run faster than 20 minutes.
“Kaylee and Audrey ran amazing at nationals,” Becker continued. “ Audrey and Kaylee (ran) in a spectacular race and had to battle it out and endure to fight for those top 15 All-American spots and to be named and become All-Americans. If those two let up and slowed down for even one second, they would have not been (in) the top 15… They really did use every ounce of grit and determination to endure because that goal was very important to them.”
Redshirt-freshman Elizabeth Meyering and freshman Rose Meyer also helped the team, both receiving personal best times at the national championship. Meyering ran the women’s 5K in 20:08.3, which is a big jump from her previous best (20:45). Becker said at the beginning of the season Meyer’s goal was to get under 22:00, and in the national tournament, she exceeded that goal and put up a time of 20:29.3.
“The six ladies on this team are women of character and each one of them help each other surpass what each one would not have been able to do if they did not have each other and ran alone,” Becker said. “Because of the integrity, grit and caring attitudes these women and this team have accomplished more because they chose to work together. They chose a team-first attitude rather than a me-first attitude.”
Both teams had an impressive season overall, as they also placed second overall in the MCCAA Conference and NJCAA Regional Championship.