Cross country teams win regionals

By Jamie Olthoff

Staff Writer

There are times when history really does repeat itself, and then there are times when it repeats itself again, and again, and again. Last weekend the men's and women's cross country teams made Calvin proud once again as both teams claimed dominant first-place victories at the Great Lakes Regional meet. The meet marked the 13th consecutive Regional win for the women and the sixth consecutive Regional win for the men.

The women, who posted a total score of 26 points, turned in a dominant performance, claiming five of the top 10 spots in the race. True to form, senior Erinn Boot led the Calvin pack, taking second place overall with a time of 18 minutes, nine seconds. Right behind her came junior Rachel Baber (18:11) and sophomore Jessie Lair (18:20), who took third and fifth, respectively. Also lending strong support to the Calvin effort were seniors Lindsey Carrier, who has been out of commission for the past month with an ankle injury, and Laura Medema; Carrier placed sixth in 18:25, while Medema placed tenth in 18:38. Freshman Ashley Berner (18:53) and sophomore Sarah Hastings (18:59) also finished for Calvin, placing 16th and 20th, respectively. All seven women were named to the Great Lakes All-Region Team.

``I think that we did a really good job working as a pack and coming back after some of our injuries,'' Lair commented. ``We really had a good focus.''

Coach Nancy Meyer was happy with the effort put forth by her team at Regionals, but her focus has now shifted to the National meet, which will take place in Illinois this weekend. ``I was really encouraged by their performance, but I think we can actually perform even better.''

Although the women have met with great success all season, a National victory will be anything but easy. ``It's going to be a very competitive Nationals,'' said Meyer. ``The competition is as steep as I have seen it.'' According to Meyer, there are six or seven teams, Calvin included, who will be vying for trophies, among them defending National champion Middlebury, who is fielding a strong team once again this season. The Knights will also have to defeat strong teams such as Moravian, Lacrosse, Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Clairmont and Williams. ``The exciting thing is that we're in contention for a trophy, and if we run great . . . then we have an outside chance of winning. We've got three seniors, and this is their last race. When the money is on the line, I think they'll be able to crank it into the next gear,'' commented Meyer.

The team is up to the task. ``I think we're really ready . . . but I know it's going to take an exceptional race by all of us in order to win; it won't be easy,'' said Lair. Baber agreed. ``I think we need to expect the unexpected . . . we're going to have to work for it, that's for sure,'' she stated.

``We're happy to be in the position we're in given the fact that we had no returning All-Americans this year,'' said Meyer. ``The season has gone extremely well. Regardless of what happens, it's been a great season.''

The men, who have won 13 Regional titles in the last 15 years, certainly benefited from the healthy return of senior Dan Hoekstra, who met with limited success in the MIAA Championships last month due to an injury and a stomach virus. Last Saturday, however, was a different story. Hoekstra led the Knights to an impressive 1-2-3-4 finish at the meet, taking first place overall with a time of 25 minutes, 16 seconds, closely followed by freshman Brian Maat, who placed second in 25:20. Senior Joel Klooster, who also ran hurt in the MIAA Championships, took third in 25:24, while senior Justin Pfruender claimed fourth in 25:28. Senior David Ritsema (26:15) and sophomore Tim Avery (16:56) also finished for Calvin, placing 18th and 42nd, respectively. They were followed by sophomore Kris Koster, who took 50th in 27:03. Hoekstra, Maat, Klooster, Pfruender, and Ritsema all earned spots on the Great Lakes All-Region team.

The Knights' performance at Regionals was undoubtedly the strongest they have given all season. What made the difference? ``It's been a process . . . We've made the adjustments along the way, but they finally just all fell into place,'' said Head Coach Brian Diemer.

``We're finally starting to run everybody healthy again and when everybody's healthy the whole team just runs a lot better,'' said Klooster. ``We talked a lot over the past few weeks about running in packs and drawing off each other.''

``I think that most of the guys on the team . . . had it figured out that we needed to emulate last year's team,'' commented Assistant Coach Al Hoekstra. ``I know they wanted to kind of form their own identity, but last year's team won. There are right ways to do things and wrong ways to do things, and last year's team did it right.''

The healthy returns of Dan Hoekstra and Klooster also contributed to the team's strong finish. ``Hoekstra and Klooster were able to get back on the roads and work with the team,'' said Coach Hoekstra. All of a sudden the team . . . had the two big leaders back. Pfruender had to do it all by himself before that, and then he got Hoekstra and Klooster back, and the whole atmosphere of the team changed.'' Maat's outstanding performance really bolstered the team's score as well; a second place finish by a freshman at such a competitive meet is nothing short of phenomenal. ``Brian Maat all of a sudden decided that he was able to run with the big boys,'' laughed Coach Hoekstra. ``We're just amazed with the focus he's showing in races.''

Dan Hoekstra was excited about the team's recent improvement. ``We've been pushing for it all season, and it just wasn't there,'' he said. ``A couple weeks ago it just seemed like God was starting to bring us all together . . . and as soon as a couple things came into place we just gained confidence.''

If the men come out tomorrow like they did last weekend, their prospects for Nationals are excellent. ``We're very excited to be in the hunt, to be in the thick of things, [and to be] taking another shot at the National title,'' said Diemer. ``We're as ready as we're going to be.''

``We'll be standing on the line knowing that we can win,'' said Coach Hoekstra. ``If you think you can [win] and you've got the talent we have, well, you never know!'' Dan Hoekstra echoed his coach's sentiments. ``The way we went out on Saturday and the way we ran together . . . I think we set ourselves up for what needs to be done,'' he commented. ``We will have confidence going into Nationals that we can run a good race. As long as we go out there on Saturday and give it everything we have, then no matter what happens we'll be happy with it.''