Cross country teams claim Knight Invite titles


Alyssa Penning led the Knights to a first place finish over the weekend. Photo by Jess Koster

Running in their very own invitational to start off the season, both men’s and women’s cross country squads were able to claim first place on a cool, sunny morning this past Saturday. Both Calvin men and women claimed the top spot at the invitational.

With 17 women’s teams and 16 men’s squads all converging on the Gainey Athletic Complex, the Knights had their work cut out for them as they faced teams from Grand Valley State, Ohio Northern (ONU) and every MIAA squad except for Hope and Albion on the women’s side and Albion on the men’s side.

With a strong men’s team returning this fall for the Knights, it was really a question as to whether or not Division II GVSU would show up with their top runners or not, and if so, if Calvin could run with them.

On the women’s side, Calvin had a number of questions coming into the race. The Knights return a lot of runners from cross country and track last year, but whether or not the transition could be made to this year and how strong they would run remained to be seen. Grand Valley State’s strength was also a wild card heading into the women’s five kilometer race.

The women ran first and Calvin came off the starting line strong. Running into the early lead was senior Alyssa Penning and junior Nicole Michmerhuizen. Following closely behind were freshman McKenzie Diemer, sophomore Kimby Penning, and junior Alyssa Oram.

As the race progressed, the Knights began to spread out throughout the pack. Penning and Michmerhuizen would continue to run strong out front before a runner from ONU, Alison Steinbrunner, made her way out front.

When runners began to cross the finish line, it was Steinbrunner who took first. The elder Penning took second overall and was Calvin’s first runner in a time of 17:57.4. Michmerhuizen followed her across the line in a time of 18:02.1, good for third overall. Next across the line for the Knights was Diemer, who took ninth overall with a time of 18:15.5. Kimby Penning came in next at 12th overall in 18:25.1. A few steps behind her was Oram who came in 13th in 18:26.9.

That would round out Calvin’s top five runners, the Knights claiming first place with an overall team score of 34 points. Grand Valley came in second as a team with 64 points, earning overall finishes of fifth, sixth, 15th, 17th and 21st. The top MIAA school to follow Calvin was Alma in eighth as a team. The Scots grabbed individual finishes of 19th, 43rd, 46th, 50th and 62nd for their top five.

“We potentially have a lot of depth, and again, we need to show some steps in the right direction today,” said head coach Brian Diemer. “Today, we showed we have something to work with, we’re going to develop nicely, I think.”

On the men’s side, it became apparent from the starting gun that the Lakers of Grand Valley did not bring their top runners as the Knights quickly claimed the top five spots in the running order at the kilometer mark. Another pack of Calvin runners followed closely behind, hovering at the edge of the top ten, while a third pack looked to be running top 20.

After three or four kilometers, the packs began to break up and seniors Nick Kramer and Dan Kerr of Calvin began to separate themselves from the main group. Seniors Job Christiansen, Matt Vander Roest and David Vande Bunte began to disperse throughout the group, losing their earlier pack form.

Still, Calvin put the first two runners across the finish line, with Kramer taking first overall in 24:23.3 and Kerr following in 24:28.4. Third place finisher Bobby Over of Alleghany finished in 24:43.8, fifteen seconds behind Kerr, and 20 seconds behind Kramer. Christiansen came in as Calvin’s third runner and fifth overall in 24:57.5. Filling the Knights fourth and fifth spots were Vander Roest, who took seventh overall in 25:12.7, and Vande Bunte, who finished 15th overall in 25:32.7.

Calvin’s team score of 30 took first place overall. Grand Valley State did finish in second, but the individual finishes of 11th, 17th, 21st, 24th, and 36th resulted in a team score of 109. The next MIAA team to finish behind the Knights was Hope, whose team score totaled 242 points.

“There are a few things we have to work on, we have to learn to run together better,” said Knights’ assistant coach Al Hoekstra. “This team is so good. We’re loaded with talent. When we figure out how to run as a team, then we have a shot at making a legitimate run at the national title.”

Calvin’s next run comes at the opening MIAA Jamboree of the conference season at Saint Mary’s College, held on September 21.