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Calvin Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Teams Prepare for NCAA III Championships

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

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The Calvin College men’s and women’s cross country teams will depart on Thursday for Hanover, Indiana, where they will compete at the NCAA III
Championships hosted by Hanover College. The official meet web site can be found at:Nationals website

The following is a preview of both the Calvin men’s and women’s teams.

CALVIN MEN’S PREVIEW

Under the direction of head coach Brian Diemer, the Knights will be making their 16th consecutive appearance at the NCAA III Cross Country Championships
including their 24th overall which ranks fourth on the all-time NCAA III men’s cross country list. The Knights will head in ranked fourth. Cortland State of New York is considered the pre-race favorite as the Red Dragons have been ranked number-one in every national poll released this fall. Longtime power North Central is also considered a threat as the Cardinals are ranked second. North Central owns 12 national titles in men’s cross country - more than any other NCAA III institution. Three-time national champion Wisconsin-LaCrosse is ranked third. Calvin owns four national titles in its history which is tied for second on the all-time NCAA III men’s cross country list. The Knights captured national titles in 2000, 2003, 2004 and 2006. Calvin’s 2003 national title took place at Hanover.

Calvin will be led by senior Jed Christiansen (Greenville, PA/Greenville HS) who took 33rd at last year’s national meet to garner All-America accolades for the third straight year. Christiansen will be attempting to become just the 14th individual in NCAA III men’s cross country history to claim an All-America (top 35 finish) four straight years. Recent Calvin graduate Tim Finnegan is one of the 13 individuals who have achieved the feat. Finnegan did so from 2003-to-2006. Christiansen was recently named the Great Lakes Regional Athlete of the Year for the second consecutive year and was named the MIAA’s Most Valuable Runner while landing a spot on the All-MIAA first team for a fourth straight year, becoming the 16th individual in MIAA men’s cross country history to do so.

Calvin also has two other runners with All-America credentials in seniors Erik VanKampen and Nate DeHaan. VanKampen (Elmhurst, IL/Timothy Christian HS) is a two-time NCAA III All-American who finished 17th in 2006 and 35th in 2007. At last week’s Great Lakes Regional meet, VanKampen placed second and landed a spot on the Great Lakes All-Region team for a third straight year. He was also named to the All-MIAA first team for a third straight year this fall.

For an indepth interview with VanKampen, please visit his recent Q & A session with Trackshark.com at:http://trackshark.com/blogs/division3blog/3635/Interview%3A+Erik+Van+Kampen+of+Calvin+College.html

DeHaan is from Byron Center and is a graduate of South Christian High School. At the 2006 NCAA III Championships, DeHaan garnered an All-America berth by finishing 31st. DeHaan is making his third appearance at the national meet. At last week’s Great Lakes Regional meet, DeHaan took third individually to earn Great Lakes Region honors for the third straight year. Two weeks prior, he landed a spot on the All-MIAA first team for the third straight year.

Also racing for Calvin on Saturday with experience from last year’s national race will be seniors Dan Vanden Akker (Grand Rapids/South Christian HS) and Tim Langenberg (Grand Ledge/Grand Ledge HS) who were both a part of Calvin’s competing team at the 2007 NCAA III Championships.  VandenAkker was 10th at last week’s regional meet and was a member of the Great Lakes All-Region team for a second straight year. Earlier this fall, he was named to the All-MIAA first team for a second consecutive season. Langenberg was 21st at the Great Lakes Regional on Saturday and also earned all-region honors for the second straight year.

Making their debuts at the national meet will be junior George Visser (Winfield, IL/West Chicago HS) and sophomore Jake Christiansen (New Ipswich, NH/ Mascenic Regional HS). Christiansen was 31st at the regional meet on Saturday while Visser was 32nd with both runners receiving all-region honors. In addition, both individuals were named to the All-MIAA first team this fall.

Serving as Calvin’s alternate on Saturday will be freshman Nick Kramer (Dyer, IN/Illiana Christian HS). Kramer was also a member of the All-MIAA first team this year.


CALVIN WOMEN’S PREVIEW

Under the direction of head coach Brian Diemer, the Knights will be making their fourth consecutive appearance at the NCAA III Cross Country Championships
including their 19th overall which ranks fourth on the all-time NCAA III women’s cross country list. Calvin will also be making its third nationals
appearance under Diemer who is in his third year as head coach of the Calvin women’s team. A year ago, Calvin took fourth at the NCAA III Championships. In 2006, the Knights were third. This year, the Knights will come in ranked second after having been ranked number-one for several weeks prior to last week’s Great Lakes Regional meet.

Middlebury (VT) is now ranked number-one. The Panthers took first place at the New England Regional last Saturday with 57 points. Middlebury has captured four national titles in women’s cross country, winning in 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2006. Middlebury’s 2003 national title took place in Hanover.

Calvin will coming off a Great Lakes Regional title on Saturday where the Knights scored 42 points.

Calvin will be sending a team that has five runners and one alternate with nationals experience.

Leading the group will be seniors Calah Schlabach, Lauren Bergstrom, Jesi Hale and Kelly Edwards along with juniors Jessica Koster and Elizabeth Smit. Schlabach will be making her fourth straight appearance at the national meet while Bergstrom and Edwards will be doing so for the third time. Hale, Koster and Smit will be running in the national meet for a second consecutive year

Schlabach (St. Michaels, AZ/St. Michaels HS) has steadily improved in each national meet she has competed at, finishing 142nd in 2005, 70th in 2006 and 52nd in 2007. Schlabach was fifth at the Great Lakes Regional meet on Saturday to earn a spot on the Great Lakes All-Region team. Earlier this fall, she was named to the All-MIAA first team for a fourth straight year, becoming just the ninth individual in MIAA women’s cross country history to do so.

Bergstrom (Rochester, MN/Century HS) was Calvin’s top performer at Saturday’s regional meet, placing fourth and earning a spot on the Great Lakes All-Region team. A member of the All-MIAA first team this fall for a third straight year, Bergstrom was 85th at the 2006 NCAA III Championships and 92nd at the 2007 national meet.

Hale was 10th, Smit 11th and Edwards 12th at Saturday’s Great Lakes Regional meet. All three were members of the Great Lakes All-Region team and All-MIAA first team this fall. Hale (Rehoboth, NM/Gallup HS) was 83rd at last year’s natonal meet while Smit (Kirkland, WA/Bellevue Christian HS) was 122nd. Edwards (Grand Blanc/Grand Blanc HS) was studying abroad last fall but ran on Calvin’s 2006 team at nationals, finishing 202nd.

Koster will be making her second consecutive appearance at the national meet. A two-time first team All-MIAA selection, Koster (Grand Rapids/Grand Rapids Christian HS) took 49th at last year’s national meet.

Junior Nicole Farr (Wheaton, IL/Wheaton Warrenville South HS) will make her nationals debut on Saturday. Farr was 22nd at Saturday’s Great Lakes Regional meet to earn a spot on the Great Lakes All-Region team.

Also serving as Calvin’s alternate on Saturday will be junior Mary Tolsma (Hawthorne, NJ/Eastern Christian HS). Tolsma also served as Calvin’s alternate in 2007. Tolsma was 30th at Saturday’s Great Lakes Regional meet and landed a spot on the all-region team. Earlier, Tolsma was named to the All-MIAA second team.

Saturday’s competition is scheduled to begin with the men’s race at 11:00 a.m and the women’s race to follow at noon.

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