Cross Country competes at NAIA Great Lakes Challenge in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Team shifts focus to River State Conference Championship meet at IU-Kokomo, set for early November before NAIA Nationals

Written By Antonio Rossetti, Co-Sports Editor

The Pioneers were back at it running in the NAIA Great Lakes Challenge. Point Park traveled over 6 hours north to Grand Rapids, Michigan, competing there for the second year in a row.

The Pioneers home course, Schenley Park, features hills and is far from flat. The flat course in the Great Lakes region was somewhere that freshman Josh Gosselin running at.

“The course was really nice,” Gosselin said. “It was probably the best one that we’ve had this year. Despite all those challenges that we had earlier on in the season, these races now starting with Yesterday are supposed to be faster now. They’re gonna be a lot flatter, there’s not going to be so many hills.”

The men’s cross country team put together a performance that put them 10th out of 30 teams in the Great Lakes Challenge white race.. Point Park accumulated 318 points and had two runners finish within the top 50.

The top 7 finishers were sophomore Elijah James (27:14.7), senior Logan Gonzales (27:24.3), sophomore Ramiro Ulunque (27:54.2), Gosselin (27:59.3), freshman Gabe Ebersole (28:15.6), sophomore John Dyar (28:30.1) and freshman Jordan Kullen (28:37.7).

The Pioneers had 6 underclassmen finish in the top 7, including Gosselin who has finished within the top 5 for the team in every meet so far.

“There is motivation to be able to keep going with these guys, because I know they’re going to bring their A game,” Gosselin said. “It gives me someone to not only rely on, but they’re going to be going out pretty fast or at least better than what I’m used to and it gives me something to chase. It gives me someone to work towards. It gives me a goal.”

The Pioneers finished in the upper half of the race and the team got an opportunity to see where they stood with other River States Conference (RSC) opponents. The Pioneers finished 1st out of 4 RSC teams.

Gosselin was quite impressed with Elijah James’ race as he finished the 8k first for the 8k. Gosselin said that James is a great motivator.

“He’s just a great leader and he ran a really great race yesterday, and Logan (Gonzales) went with him towards the end,” Gosselin said. “We had a few other guys that were trying to chase them towards the end, but we couldn’t quite keep up with them, but we’re hoping that we can close that gap next week or at conferences.”

Gosselin said that he and the team want to work on each other’s strengths and weaknesses. The team faces a make or break scenario at the RSC Cross Country Championship in two weeks and Gosselin wants to make sure the team is prepared for the most important race of the season.

Preparation is key for the Pioneers. The Pioneers want to focus on pack running and making sure they run as a team. Gosselin wants the team to continue to learn from each other.

“We’re going to look at what we did right yesterday and what we did wrong and how we can improve on that to make sure that we can win at conferences, ideally,” Gosselin said, “But not just that, but we want to PR and just have our best race at conferences. That’s the end goal.”

Gosselin is excited to see how the team does at the conference meet and he believes the team can qualify for Nationals.

“We’re looking on the positive side of things,” Gosselin said. “We saw a couple of people making great strides forward yesterday, and we’re just looking to see what we can do at conferences. We have a lot of people who can do a lot of different things with their skill sets.”

The women’s team competed in the race after the men competed. The women’s team also had some runners competing in Grand Rapids for the first time. Sophomore Carlijn de Bie enjoyed her time with her teammates.

“It was a very long bus ride, but it was fun,” De Bie said. “It was a nice hotel and everything and we went out to dinner. It was just very nice to be with your team the whole time you were there. It was just a lot of fun.”

The women’s cross country team won the white race last season, finishing 1st out of 36 teams. This season, Calijn de Bie and the team looked to repeat their success.

The women’s cross country team competed in the maroon race, which was the faster race compared to the white race. The Pioneers faced teams above the RSC level and placed 19th out of 25 teams.

The top 7 finishers were senior Alyssa Campbell (18:04.9), de Bie (19:27.8), freshman Emily Leo (20:07.8), sophomore Jana Schmid (20:23.1), junior Allison Plassio (20:40.4), freshman Kiyara Sawyers (20:42.7), and senior Natalia Zucco (21:25.4).

Campbell’s performance earned her 14th overall. De Bie said that it was a great opportunity for Campbell to have some competition. De Bie, who had a PR in the meet, thinks of Campbell as a great leader and believes this was a great opportunity for her to see where she fairs with the top runners in the East North Central States.

“It was just a very good opportunity to see where we sit as a team on the same course and see how well that they do compared to how well we do,” De Bie said. “We compare and make a list and try to figure out how their top runners are running or how their second top runners run and just compare everything in preparation to know where we are standing at the moment. I think we’re doing pretty good.”

De Bie is now two months into her cross country tenure at Point Park and she is doing her research on the other teams in the conference. She is picking up on the patterns and the strategies of other runners in the conference.

The team did not get to race against other RSC opponents since they were in the maroon race, but they did get to see how St. Mary of the Woods College and Indiana University Kokomo fared in the white race.

The team is now preparing for conferences.

“We’re not going to change that much with how we’re preparing other meets,” De Bie said. “I think everything has just led up to the conference. We are getting our workouts in, trying to get our mileage.”

De Bie wants both teams to make Nationals as a team and she is motivated to pass other people during her next race at the RSC Cross Country Championship. She believes the team has a chance to make Nationals.

“The main goal is staying healthy and running what we’ve been preparing for because we can do it and I think people should have the confidence to surprise themselves,” De Bie said. “Maybe you don’t PR and maybe you don’t have the best race but just try to do give your all because if you don’t give it your all, we may not go to Nationals and this may be your last cross country race. The main focus is working as a team together.”