|Sophomore runner leaps from reserve to MVP
By Andrew Knot
As a freshman, Nick Kramer was a reserve runner for the Calvin cross country team. As a sophomore, Kramer led the Knights to another successful season.
After Jed Christiansen, Nate DeHaan and Eric VanKampen — three leaders of the 2008 squad — graduated, Kramer knew he had to step up.
“[The seniors] showed me the ropes last year. They said, ‘This is what you are going to have to deal with. This is what you are going to have to do to get where you want to be,’” he said.
Kramer called his hopes for the season a “wild card.”
“It was a lot different [this year]. Last year I wasn’t going into it with many expectations at all but this year I knew I had to step up quite a bit. So I did a lot over the summer and so did a lot of other people on our team. We just went from there. We didn’t know where we were going to be,” said Kramer.
Kramer turned his expectations into reality, leading by example and performance. That reality included a team and individual regional first place, MIAA Most Valuable running honors, and, what has become a continuing theme of the Calvin men’s cross country team: dominance of the MIAA.
“I wasn’t much of a vocal leader. Kyle Mast and Todd Mitchell were our team captains. They kept our team focused. They kept us going,” he added.
After a slow start to the season, the team began to gel at the Oshkosh meet in Wisconsin. After a solid performance, Kramer says the team began thinking, “Maybe we’re better than we thought.”
With that mindset, the team cruised through the MIAA and Kramer was named Most Valuable Runner.
“That was really cool. I was glad a Calvin athlete could win it again,” he said.
Kramer continued his success in regionals, with Calvin winning the field and Kramer finishing first overall.
“We were all so excited, me especially. I wasn’t expecting to win regionals,” Kramer said.
“Nick Kramer ran an awesome race. He bided his time and worked in the first pack nicely. It was very wise racing. He ended up pulling away from the second-place runner with about a mile to go, and then he just kept working it and finished strong,” said head coach Brian Diemer of Kramer’s performance.
Kramer attributes a lot of his success to the coaching staff, especially Diemer, an Olympic bronze medalist, and assistant coach Al Hoekstra.
“[Coach Brian Diemer] is the brains behind everything. Everything he says we take as gold — or bronze, I guess. He knows the ins and outs of everything we do. Al Hoekstra is our motivator; he keeps us going,” said Kramer.
Kramer and Calvin rode that momentum into nationals, where the team finished 13th overall. Kramer finished 49th individually, despite being hindered by breathing problems.
Kramer is only looking forward, however. With a young, talented team, he sees potential for success in the future.
Kramer claimed, “Next year we will be back at it again. We will be even stronger. We have a lot of talent in the freshman class. It’s going to be exciting.”
Coach Hoekstra sees that same potential in Kramer.
“Nick Kramer has a chance to do some big things before his running career at Calvin is over. He has great heart, great determination and great talent. That’s an excellent combination to have,” said Hoekstra.
Coach Diemer added: “Nick Kramer really stepped up to become a huge leader on this team as a sophomore. The rest of the guys followed his lead and it all came from his work ethic. He’s part of a young core that will lead this team in the future and that future is a bright one.”
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