Calvin & Hope Cross Country Teams Team Up For Another Edition of Rival Relay
Friday, July 30, 2010
EDITORS NOTE (11-18-20): The Calvin and Hope men’s and women’s cross country teams reaped a wealth of success during the 2010 cross country season with the Calvin men’s and women’s teams and the Hope women’s team advancing to the NCAA III Championships while Nathan Love of the Hope men’s team also advanced to the national meet as an individual. Prior to the 2010 season, both teams gathered together in a theme of fun and sportmanship to renew a tradition that dates back more than 90 years.
By Calvin Sports Information Student Assistant Andrew Knot
(black and white photo courtesy of Hope sports information director Tom Renner)
For the cross-country programs of Calvin and Hope, the rival-tinged relationship doesn’t end with the season. For the second off-season in a row, the schools have taken their longstanding rivalry to a friendly setting.
Last weekend’s “Rivalry Relay” between the two schools consisted of an almost 36-mile relay divided into seven legs. The race began at John Ball Park in Grand Rapids and ended at Tunnel Park in Holland. The first six legs were five miles each, with the anchor leg finishing the final 5.85 miles.
Hope junior Nate Love and Calvin senior Alex Wrobel teamed up to organize the event and plan the course. Along with senior Jake Christiansen and junior Martin Avila, Wrobel took Friday night to mark the course and hand-off points.
The relay began on the west side of Grand Rapids at John Ball Park and continued on to West Michigan suburbs Jenison, Hudsonville, Jamestown, and Zeeland before finishing at Tunnel Park in Holland.
Entirely student organized without any aid of coaching staffs from either school, the relay displayed the genuine spontaneity, camaraderie, and endurance between the two squads. Even a few wrong turns couldn’t stop the teams from finishing strong and enjoying each other’s company. The off-season setting provided the runners with an opportunity to get to know each other beyond competition.
The event actually has origins dating back to 1919 when a Grand Rapids YMCA club men’s cross country team faced Hope’s men’s cross country team in a relay race from Grand Rapids to Holland. The Grand Rapids YMCA team was captained by Floris Medema, the great-grandfather of future Calvin women’s cross country standouts Laura and Camille Medema. In 2005, Calvin men’s cross country runner Tyler Zwagerman organized a similar relay featuring the Calvin and Hope men’s and women’s cross country teams and the event has become a semi-regular summer event since.
Wrobel, one of the Knight’s senior runners, commented, “It’s great to do it in a fun, competitive setting without the pressure of a meet.”
“Although we are rivals, we have a lot in common. This helps us see that,” said Calvin senior Alison Tuuk.
Fellow Knight senior Gretchen Braymer echoed that sentiment, “its fun to see our teams in a different light. There is more opportunity to chat. It’s friendlier.”
Emily Fischer, a Hope senior, also saw value in the pressure-free relay, “We are so competitive, but it’s cool that we can have camaraderie.”
The race began in a steady rain. But the sun emerged and concluded the relay on a high note. From the very beginning, the relay was tightly contested, but the aforementioned course confusion and friendly-nature of the event left all statistical information almost irrelevant. What was clearly evident however, was the effort and dedication the students put into the event, and the enjoyment they got out of it.
There was hardly any mention of first and second place or finishing times. In fact, the defining moment of this race was the beginning, not the end. Before taking off, the teams huddled not as rivals, but as Christians, and shared a pre-race prayer.
Christiansen, who improvised to run Calvin’s sixth leg, prefers to focus on this unifying aspect, rather than the race’s statistical outcome.
“Like Calvin, Hope is a Christian school and they are competing for the same reasons we are. It’s great to get to know them as people and as fellow Christians,” said Christiansen.
The race concluded with a cook-out, swimming, and volleyball at Tunnel Park. With an emphasis on camaraderie and a touch of competition, the Rivalry Relay some of the best Calvin and Hope have to offer.