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Cross Country Provides Runner with Life Lessons
By Lynn Bolt Rosendale

Lydia Singer  HeadshotA trip to the podium is what the women’s cross country team was dreaming about, according to senior Lydia Singer. “Getting into the top four is what we believe we can do,” she said prior to the NCAA III national championship race.

The Knights made believers out of everyone at the championship finals, placing third in a tight race, which saw Middlebury College (Vt.) edge Amherst College (Mass.) by one point and Calvin by just five points

“Cross country has a stereotype that it’s an individual sport,” Singer said. “And it’s not. You need everyone to run well on the same day for the team to do well.”

That is exactly what happened to the Knights, who had come in second behind Case Western Reserve University (Ohio) at the regional competition just the week before. Case Western placed 10th with 295 points at nationals.

“At regionals we learned what we could do running in a pack,” Singer said of her team, which claimed the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh spots. “We gained such positive energy from each other.”

The Knights carried that positive energy right over to nationals the following week to claim their podium spot; it was the Calvin women’s eighth top-four finish.

Gaining energy from the pack is not a phenomenon that Singer grew up with, however. She grew up in Nigeria, the daughter of missionary parents. “I used to run on my own; I trained by myself,” she said. “I thought I could run in college because my times were pretty comparable and that was on a dirt track in Nigeria.”

Singer was looking for a competitive running program in college when she learned about Calvin. “I was looking for a Division III school that had an excellent running program,” she said. “What I had heard about Calvin was that it had good academics with a focus on teaching. At Calvin I’ve been taught how to think and how to be strong in my beliefs. Those are things that I really value.”

Lydia Singer AloneSinger said that she has learned those things in the classroom, but also on the running course.

“I really appreciate the team and the coaches,” she said. “They set big, lofty goals and through the process of achieving those, you learn that it’s not all about running fast; it’s about God teaching you through your running.          “God can use lessons and struggles in running later in your life,” she said. “Running is not the end all.”

This mentality also helps Singer and her team achieve while running, she said.

“It helps me with pre-race nerves to know that I can only do my best with the abilities that God has given me. If I use those to glorify God, I can’t have any regrets about how I’ve run.”

Singer has no regrets about her Calvin running career. As a freshman, she struggled, she said. “I didn’t realize how cold freezing was,” she said. “It was a tough adjustment for me.”

Since then, Singer has gone on to All-MIAA status for the Knights each of her last three years. She was also named an All-American this year by virtue of her 20th-place finish at the national meet.

Singer’s collegiate running days aren’t over yet, though. She also runs the steeplechase and has qualified for nationals each of the last two years. Last year she placed 12th, but would like to add another All-American award to her list of accomplishments by placing in the top eight at nationals this spring.

A psychology major, Singer hopes to pursue an advanced degree in counseling, but first would like to return to Africa on a mission trip.

“It’s hard for me to think about living in one place my whole life,” she said. “Three years is the longest I’ve ever lived in one place. Growing up in Africa gives me a bigger perspective of the world, but Calvin has helped expand that, too.

“Calvin was definitely the right choice for me,” Singer said. “It’s a place where you can excel as an athlete, pursue academics and grow spiritually.”