2016-17 Season Outlook

The 2016 season looks to be as promising as the past few seasons have been as the cross country teams gear up for another year of competition. Both the women’s and the men’s squads have a number of their top runners returning from a year ago and look to do well as a team and individually this season. The teams hope to continue to be in the top part in the conference standings as well as qualify individually or as a team for the NAIA national meet.

A year ago the both the women’s and the men’s teams finished in fourth place at the conference championships and three runners individually qualified for the NAIA national championships. In addition the teams were in the top 10 at the NCCAA National Championship with the women taking fifth place and the men taking seventh in a field of 20 schools.

The Trolls will once again be directed by Coach Bob Brickman in his 13th season as head coach.  He has the experience and knowledge on how to get the best from each of his athletes and the respect from his runners that instills confidence. He will rely on his proven runners to lead the team this year, but also expects some of the new talent to play pivotal roles.

“I am looking forward to the season to what we can accomplish this year,” said Brickman. “Each year brings new challenges and opportunities for growth.”

The women’s team is coming off a season in which they placed in the top five in six of their seven meets. They finished in fourth place at the CCAC Championships, were fifth at the NCCAA National Championships, and had two NAIA national qualifiers. This year’s roster returns six runners from that squad and adds four newcomers. Although they bring back their top runner, they lost the next two competitors as well as another top seven finisher. Overall, the squad is young with seven underclassmen among the 10 runners. This year they will look to a younger group to call on their experience from a year ago and take more prominent roles.

“Whenever you bring back an All-American it is a good thing,” said Brickman. “However it will be a different year for the ladies as we will not be as strong in our top group. Ashley will help us in the scoring and overall we will be respectable.”

The team will definitely rely on senior Ashley Jourdan (Wyoming, Michigan) to lead the way. She is a proven leader as a two-time NAIA national qualifier. Last season she tied the school record with a time of 18:09 at the NAIA national meet where she placed 29th to earn NAIA All-American honors. In addition she took second at the CCAC Championships and eighth overall at the NCCAA Championships. She finished in the top 10 in six of the races last year.

Stepping to more of a prominent role will be sophomore Nicole Syverson (Hawthorn Woods, Illinois), who was the team’s No. 4 runner in her rookie year. A year ago she ran a season best of 19:32 and ranks in the top 10 in Trinity’s records book. Also factoring into the place finishers will be senior Andrea Sanchez (Palos Heights, Illinois) and sophomores Hope Fathman (Hamilton, Michigan), who had a very good track season last spring, and Amanda Jackson (Frankfort, Illinois), who is coming off an injury that kept her off the track. These three runners all had a solid season last year with times around 20:45.

Completing the list of returners is senior Monica Czajkowski (Oak Forest, Illinois).

The new runners on the team will be called on to make a difference immediately and to adjust to the collegiate competition. Sophomore Francesca Strolia (Orland Park, Illinois), who has not competed for the past two years, will break into the top five on the team and contribute to the scoring. The other newcomers are sophomore Brittany Hoekman (Hudsonville, Michigan), freshman Corrie Jacobi (San Marcos, California), and freshman Mikayla Van Laan (Wayland, Michigan).

The men’s team has a roster of 12 runners of which eight are returning runners.  As a squad a year ago they finished in the top 10 in three of their seven races, including a fourth place at the CCAC Championships and a seventh place at the NCCAA National Championships. They also had one NAIA qualifier, who returns to the team this year. They return three of their top five runners and will build this year’s team around those individuals.

“We have experience and leadership on the men’s team with a good group of seniors and other upperclassmen,” said Brickman. “I think we will be able to battle for a top three place at the conference meet.”

The top runner for the Trolls is Cody Velthuizen (Lynden Washington), a senior and two-time NAIA national qualifier. Hampered by injury a year ago he posted a season best of 26:07, but ranks fourth overall in Trinity’s records book with a career best of 25:36. In the 2015 season he finished in 13th place at the conference meet and 21st at the NCCAA national meet.

Other leaders for the team will be seniors Keegan Fitzsimmons (Pella, Iowa) and Alex Clark (Wyoming, Michigan). Both of these runners were in the top five for the Trolls a year ago. Fitzsimmons posted a best of 26:45 last year and was in the top 20 at the CCAC meet. He is stronger this year after a good track season and summer conditioning. Clark, as a four-year runner for the team, has a career best of 27:21.  As he converts his track experience and success to the cross country course he will be a strong place finisher for the team.  

A couple of other returners who will look to move into consistent scoring positions are sophomore Luke Boss (Frankfort, Illinois) and sophomore Kyle VanderPlaats (Sioux Center, Iowa). They will both call on their experience from a year ago to move up in the rankings.

Rounding out the returners are senior Joshua Whitten (Pella, Iowa), a four-year runner, junior Sam DeKryger (Grandville, Michigan), who is coming off an injury from last spring, and sophomore Noah Wolters (Hudsonville, Michigan).

The newcomers to the team include three freshmen and a junior transfer. Freshman Brantley Van Overloop (Hudsonville, Michigan) shows promise and can move into one of the top five positions for the team. Junior Nick Heidinger (Crestwood, Illinois), freshman Jose Beltran (Palos Heights, Illinois), and freshman Kevin Courtney (Crestwood, Illinois), all ran at Alan B. Shepard High School in Palos Heights. Heidinger has been out of competition for three seasons, but has potential once he gets back into racing form. Courtney also has a natural stride and will do well as he adjusts to the collegiate race.

The Trolls open their season on September 2 at the University of St. Francis and will compete in a total of five regular season meets. They return to University of Wisconsin-Parkside, a challenging meet they have not competed at in the last five years. Also in September they are at the Illinois Intercollegiate Championships which are hosted by Olivet Nazarene University. The Trolls travel to Bethel College in Indiana and to Mount Mercy University in Iowa in October.  The CCAC Championships will be hosted by St. Francis and take place on November 5.  The Trolls are looking to be in the top contenders in the conference on both the men’s and women’s side and will have to battle the favorites of St. Francis and Olivet Nazarene. Other post-season events include the NCCAA Championships in Mississippi on November 12 and the NAIA National Championships in North Carolina on November 19.