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Two personalities combine for one strong leadership duo
By Abe Huyser-Honig
Sarah Hastings and Jessie Lair

Sarah Hastings (l.) and Jessie Lair

Salt and pepper. Sarah Hastings and Jessie Lair. They are very different elements combining to form something more than the sum of their parts, says head women’s cross country coach Nancy Meyer.

“They’re very different individuals who came together on the course and have really become an indomitable force,” said Meyer of seniors and front-runners Sarah Hastings and Jessie Lair, who, while they’ve added something important to the mix since day one, have this year become the team’s dominant flavors.

“It’s kind of cool: when we were freshmen, we looked up to [Erinn] Boot and [Lindsay] Carrier [former teammates], and now that we’re seniors, we’re the ones people are looking up to,” said Lair.

Each has her particular way of filling the shoes of those former teammates; you couldn’t accuse these leaders of being two left feet. Lair leads by the miles under her belt and the resolute gleam in her eye. Hastings inspires by example, too, but is also the team’s most vocal spokesperson. Lair is typically laid back, while Hastings brims with enthusiasm in nearly every situation. Even their racing styles are complementary: Lair excels at keeping the pace consistent, while Hastings’ forte is finishing hard.

And they won’t hesitate to correct each other if one’s idiosyncrasies start outbalancing the other’s. “We’ve developed a friendship where we can be honest with each other,” said Hastings. “We don’t sugarcoat things.”

“Together, we have all the right things, but separately I don’t think we’d be ideal leaders,” said Lair.

One important thing they do share is faith; they’ve helped each other get through tough races by silently praying as they ran.

As freshmen, Hastings and Lair were already top-seven runners for Calvin. But more memorable for them than running at nationals that year was their frustration at Calvin’s 14th-place finish. They vowed to make the coming years different.

Sophomore year, both finished nearly every race in Calvin’s top five, and in every race since the beginning of their junior year, they have finished one-two for Calvin. Both have been named to the All-MIAA and All-Great Lakes Region teams and competed at nationals every year they’ve been on the team. Lair was also the MIAA Most Valuable Runner in 2002 and 2003.

At last year’s national championship meet at St. Olaf College (Northfield, Minn.), they became All-Americans, with Lair finishing ninth overall and Hastings 17th.

Their commitment shows off the course, too. Hastings spent a summer with Calvin’s Leadership Growth Institute at Snow Mountain Ranch-YMCA of the Rockies, and this year she’s part of a leadership development club led by Calvin vice president for student life Shirley Hoogstra. Lair has made the Dean’s List six times and counting, and her artwork has appeared in Dialogue, Calvin’s fine arts publication.

This spring, both look to top off impressive track careers: Lair holds Calvin’s 10,000-meter record, while Hastings holds the 3,000-meter steeplechase record and last year was an All-American in that event.

Lair graduates in May with a B.F.A. in studio art. In July she’ll marry Joel Klooster, a former Calvin harrier who happens to hold the men’s 10,000-meter record. Hastings, an elementary education major, will be back next fall for student teaching. She’s used up her eligibility for competition but hopes to aid the team as an assistant coach.

Both will miss a team that has become a second family to them, a team they credit with helping them accomplish so much. Said Hastings, “You can’t succeed without the help of others.”