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Calvin Cross Country Teams Take Knight Invitational Titles

Saturday, September 20, 2008

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Invitational Website

By Chaz Amidon

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – For many senior runners like Jed Christiansen, Saturday’s Knight Invitational marked their final collegiate race at Gainey Sports Complex – home to Calvin’s men’s and women’s cross country squads.

But it also marked the beginning to a promising 2008 season, as Christiansen (Greenville, Penn.) helped to bolster a first-place finish for the men’s team while sophomore Jessica Koster (Grand Rapids, Mich.) and senior Lauren Bergstrom (Rochester, Minn.) paced the women to a similar outcome.

“It was a good training run for later in the season,” said Christiansen. “We had to get out there and do some things today, working in our packs and practicing it now so we can do it later in the season when it really counts.”

Each ranked No. 2 in the country heading into Saturday’s season-opening meet, the men’s and women’s teams overcame sweltering mid-morning temperatures against several prestigious programs, including Case Western Reserve, Grand Valley State University, Ohio Northern, and UW-Oshkosh.

“You can get psyched out easier in the heat, and it’s great that everyone stayed focused and went at it,” said Christiansen.

While the women ran a 5K course, the men ran an 8K trek spanning to and from every corner of Gainey grounds.

Christiansen, a returning All-American, was awarded with first-place honors, crossing the finish line with a time of 25:10. Senior Nate DeHaan (Byron Center, Mich.) came in third place, followed closely by a fellow-senior, Erik VanKampen (Elmhurst, Ill.), who placed fifth.

Calvin’s clustered top-ten finish also included a seventh-place outing from sophomore Jake Christiansen (New Ipswich, NH) and an eighth-place performance from junior George Visser (Winfield, Ill.).

“Everybody ran with heart,” coach Brian Diemer said of the men’s season debut. “We’re on the right track, but I also saw a little bit of work we have to do.

“We did have a good start – I wouldn’t say a great start. It’s early in the year and we can’t really do a whole lot of comparing. What we can do is look at our guys, how they’re adjusting to school and homework, if they’re getting enough sleep, are they adjusting to training.”

On the women’s side, Koster cruised to a second-place finish while Bergstrom sailed past the line right on her heals, each garnering times of 17:57.

Senior Calah Schlabach (St. Michaels, Ariz.) notched seventh-place honors, and juniors Jessi Hale (Rehoboth, NM) and Elizabeth Smit (Kirkland, Wash.) came up with 10th and 11th place finished, respectively.

“The women are learning to run better as packs,” said Diemer. “That will help make us stronger if we can get that adjusted a little bit. But we are very strong, very deep. We have a lot of potential to go far and I’m really excited.”

The Knights will travel to Saint Mary’s next Friday, Sept. 26, for the MIAA Jamboree, one of two conference meets that will significantly dictate the final season standings in November.

“Today was the dress rehearsal and we’re going to take things meet-by-meet,” said Bergstrom. “The focus is for November, for the National Championships. But we still have to take it day-by-day.”

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