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Runner follows footsteps of older brother
By Derek Neice

Jessica Koster runningA native of Grand Rapids and a Grand Rapids Christian graduate, Jessica Koster has always been a runner; it’s in her blood. Her father is an avid runner, and her other siblings all revel in the sport. Most notably, her older brother Kris, who is one of Jessica’s biggest fans and one of her biggest role models, also ran at Calvin. Kris was an All-American in both cross country and track and field at Calvin and was part of Calvin’s national championship men’s cross country teams in 2000 and 2003.

Jessica has always looked up to her brother in all his successes at Calvin, but she did crave her own sense of individuality as a runner. Because of this, Jessica decided to enroll at Division II Grand Valley State University (Mich.), just down the road from Calvin, and run for its team, making her own name for herself.

After her freshman year, she knew something was missing, something her brother had found in his time as a Knight, and so Jessica decided to transfer to the school where her brother had excelled, a place where she, too, would soon find her niche.

“The underclassmen really don’t have an idea of how amazing their team is unless they go somewhere else,” said Koster of how much of a difference coming to Calvin made in terms of team camaraderie. “I can’t imagine there’s a better team in the nation than Calvin because of how well we get along and how much we put Christ as our main emphasis.”

Jessica Koster headshotJust in time for the 2007-08 academic year, then-sophomore Koster began her career at Calvin, and in her first season on the Knight cross country team she garnered the first of her eventual three All-MIAA first-team selections.

Her junior year the results were similar as she nabbed another All-MIAA first-team selection for cross country and also some track and field awards. In that season, Koster qualified for the national outdoor track and field championships in both the 5,000 and 10,000 meters, eventually claiming an All-America berth in that event with a fifth-place finish.

This past fall at a cross country meet in the middle of the season and in muddy conditions, Koster injured her hip. But Koster battled back, and by the end of the season at the NCAA III Championships, she was in good enough shape to lead her team to a third-place finish.

With her 34th place finish, Jessica became the second Koster sibling to be named an All-American as a Calvin Knight.

Carrying a 3.96 grade point average and with plans to pursue a career in occupational therapy, Koster was named a first team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American in cross country and track and field.

“It’s tough,” Koster said about the struggle of balancing both schoolwork and running. “It takes a lot of time and effort and commitment, and I guess I just take it one day at a time to avoid getting too overwhelmed.

“Through the injury, it made me step back and realize that it’s not all about results, and it’s just about being able to run and glorify God,” Koster continued. “I was really at peace the whole time I was injured knowing He would heal me, but it definitely was tough.”