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Overbeck runs Calvin back to national prominence
By Colin McWhertor

When she joined the Calvin College women's cross country team, Christina Overbeck did not know what to expect.

She came to Calvin having never run cross country competitively. Soccer was her sport during the fall athletic seasons at Bellevue Christian, outside of Seattle, Wash. — but it was then that she began to get a taste for running distances.

“My soccer coach told me I had to run track,” Overbeck said. “He said if we wanted to be starters on the soccer team that we had to run track in the spring, so I did. I never thought about it much; I just did what he told me to do.”

Overbeck was not aware of the success of the Calvin women's program, which holds 16 consecutive MIAA titles and NCAA III National Championships in 1998 and 1999.

Christina OverbeckShe was quickly introduced to those expectations, however, as the team's long MIAA winning streak ended her first season on the team.

“A lot of the women on the team were telling me it was a big deal that we didn't win,” Overbeck said. “But I didn't really know anything about it. I was just a freshman and I never realized [its significance] until later.”

If Overbeck's freshman year was about transition, her sophomore year was about gaining confidence. She ran in Calvin's top seven all season and placed fifth overall in the MIAA championships, earning the first of her three All-MIAA first team honors and helping Calvin regain the MIAA championship it had surrendered the year before.

“Each year was different from the others,” she said, “but I really look at my junior season as where I made the most progress. That was the major turning point.”

It was at the NCAA III Championships that Overbeck really showed how well she could run. She ran through mud and standing water to place sixth overall in the nation, earning an All-American award and pacing Calvin to a third-place finish. “The national meet was where I really surprised myself with how well I ran,” said Overbeck, remembering her performance. “It changed my perspective on it all; I finished as one of the top runners in the nation. It was a pretty exciting way to end the season.”

As a senior, she was Calvin's top finisher in the Great Lakes Regional hosted by Calvin, finishing third overall, leading the Knights to a first-place finish. Overbeck finished her Calvin career by leading the team to a fourth overall finish at the 2007 NCAA III Championships, placing 37th individually.

As she looks back on her career at Calvin, Overbeck — also an All-American in the 10K on Calvin's track team — realizes that she was a part of something special: bringing Calvin back to the national standing that it was accustomed to.

“I really felt like I was a part of the whole program,” she said. “I‘ve been with it when it was down and when it was up. That made it so I never took anything for granted; I was more thankful for all our success over the past three years.”

Overbeck, a mechanical engineering major, has aspirations to work in medical engineering and is on a senior design team exploring alternative energy supply for a new dorm extension on campus.

“We are designing a geothermal heating system for the new addition,” she said. “It is pretty exciting for me to explore new ways to work with what I am learning.”

While Overbeck plans to work after college before perhaps pursuing graduate studies, she also said it has not sunk in that she is done with cross country and will no longer be a part of that team.

“It's been my favorite part of college by far, and I don't really know what to do now that it's over,” she said. “I'll stay connected to all the people, but it won't be the same again, and I know that."