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Calvin Cross Country Teams Capture Great Lakes Regional Titles

Saturday, November 15, 2008

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Al Hoekstra Audio Interview

By Bruce VanBaren

WESTERVILLE, OHIO- Cold and wet conditions couldn’t slow down Calvin’s nationally ranked cross country teams Saturday at Otterbein College. The women’s team, ranked first nationally, won its second straight regional title and the men’s team, ranked fourth nationally, won its 13th consecutive regional title.

The women’s team overcame the injury of top runner Jessica Koster, who missed the regional race with a stiff back. Calvin finished five of its seven runners in the top twelve to edge out Case Western Reserve and DePauw for the regional title.

“Today everything went right,” assistant coach Al Hoekstra said. “They ran like a team that has a chance to finish highly next week (at the national meet).”
Lauren Bergstrom (22:08) finished fourth and Calah Schlabach (22:12) finished fifth to lead the Knights. Bergstrom and Schlabach trailed second place Case Western’s top two runners through the first third of the women’s 6K race. Bergstrom and Schlabach ran side by side through most of the race, but Bergstrom took about a ten stride lead through the final 1000 meters.

“Our top four today ran a fabulous race,” Hoekstra said. “They got out strong (from the start) and they held their position. They’ve had a phenomenal season and have done everything it takes to put them in a position to win.”

Jesi Hale (22:36) and Elizabeth Smit (22:36) led Calvin’s second pack with Kelly Edwards (22:47) nipping closely at their heals. Edwards’ performance filled the void left by the absence of Koster and allowed the Knights to win the regional.

“All year long we’ve been running with five (runners) up front and they’ve been done a great job,” Hoekstra said. “I’ll tell you what, sometimes when you put a little pressure on some other people to step up they do. Our sixth, seventh, eighth have been watching those top five.

“Kelly Edwards is my hero today, seriously,” he said. “She ran the best race of her life under circumstances that she had to. She knew that she was the last straw, she was the fifth women and she had to be there today. “

Hoekstra was especially pleased with Edwards’ performance looking forward to next weekend’s national meet in Hanover, Indiana.

“I said Kelly,” Hoekstra said. “We now have six (top runners) and we needed six to be able to go to the national meet and have a chance to win it.”

Calvin’s top five finished ahead of Case Western’s number three runner who finished 16th and the Knights’ top six finished ahead of Case Western’s number four runner who finished 25th. Nicole Farr (23:21), who was Calvin’s replacement runner for the injured Koster, finished 22nd. Mary Tolsma (23:32) finished 30th.

All seven of Calvin’s finishers on Saturday earned Great Lakes All-Region status for placing in the top 35.

Calvin wins its second straight regional at Otterbein College. The last time Otterbein hosted the regional was in 1996, with both Calvin teams winning regional titles that day. Case Western won the 2006 regional, but finished 42 points behind the Knights score of 42. DePauw finished third with 105 points.

Calvin’s men’s team swept the top three positions and placed its top four runners in the top ten to beat out Ohio Northern and Mount Union convincingly. Jed Christiansen (24:44) won his second straight individual regional title.

“Jed is absolutely amazing,” Hoekstra said. “Jed has some talent obviously, but the thing I love about Jed is every race you know what you are going to get. You are going to get everything that Jed has. He is just phenomenal at rising to a new level when he has to.”

Christiansen was followed closely by Erik Van Kampen (24:50) as both runners separated from the field by about 100 meters. (For more on Van Kampen’s pursuit of Christiansen this season, check out a post race interview with Hoekstra. Hoekstra explains the turning point in Van Kampen’s season.) Nate DeHaan (25:03) held on to beat out two Ohio Northern runners and a Case Western runner to finish third.

“(The top three) ran really fast today,” Hoekstra said. “Jed is the leader, he sets the pace. He takes everyone with. These are really three of the top ten runners, (top) fifteen for sure, in the country.”

Dan VandenAkker (25:24) trailed two Mount Union runners to finish tenth. Tim Langenberg (25:41) finished 21st. Jake Christiansen (25:48) and George Visser (25:48) rounded out Calvin’s seven runners finishing 31st and 32nd respectively.

All seven of Calvin’s finishers on Saturday earned Great Lakes All-Region status for placing in the top 35.

“We have a little bit of work to do between (our four and five runners),” Hoekstra said. “But if you look at the times today that gap (from the top three) really isn’t that big for as fast as the guys ran up front.”

Calvin finished with 37 points, well ahead of Ohio Northern (88 points) and Mount Union (121 points. Both Ohio Northern and Mount Union are in the Ohio Athletic Conference along with host Otterbein and ran Otterbein’s course earlier this year.

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4 comments on "Calvin Cross Country Teams Capture Great Lakes Regional Titles"
  • WOW! What teams Calvin has this year.  Way to pull it together guys and gals.
    Best it next week at the Nationals.  I will be listening in.

    Darryl Englander, Calvin Cross Country 1975

    Posted by Darryl Englander on 11/17 at 09:41 PM
  • Congratulations Knights.

    We old timers are proud of your accomplishments, and with the spirit and reputation you bring to our school and our Lord whom you represent.

    Best wishes this coming weekend.

    Ken Key
    CC and Track Captain

    Posted by Ken Key on 11/17 at 03:24 PM
  • Congrats to both teams.  Best wishes at Nationals next week!

    -Tim Becksvoort
    Cross Country class of ‘97

    Posted by Tim Becksvoort on 11/16 at 12:58 AM
  • Go Lady Knights!  You’re poised to do extremely well next Saturday!  You have every reason to be confident.  You are touching your potential!  You’ve made it back to the Big Dance, so the pressure is off.  Run and have fun!

    Men Knights: You too are ready Great things are also in your grasp.  You’ve got the toughness and the will!

    Mrs. Medema and I eaagerly await next Saturday (and caring for Josiah) at the meet.

    Dave Medema

    Posted by Dave Medema on 11/15 at 10:14 PM