By: Ruby Arani/ GCU Staff
Smiles for miles.
Over the course of the 2017-2018 season, the Grand Canyon University Running Club tracked hundreds of miles across the greater Phoenix area. The Lopes ran in seven different races across the valley that ranged from 5k (3.1 miles) races to half-marathons (13.1 miles).
And Lopes’ Head Coach Kim Sims enjoyed every step of it.
“I am over joyed with how well everyone met as a team, from a beginner to an advanced runner, to train and participate races that were new to them. It was a great season to see how well each other helped each other; not only with their fitness goals but with their faith and doing well academically.”
On the men’s side, Sims saw a running standout emerge in Lopes’ freshman Ryan McQuillan.
McQuillan shot out of the gates quickly, placing 13th overall in his first race of the season, the 3TV Phoenix 10k and Half-marathon. He continue to strive throughout the year, finishing second (out of 5,000 runners) in the Hot Chocolate 5k, then pulled out all stops to win the team’s final race of the season, the GCU’s Run to Fight Cancer 5k.
“This young man has a bright future ahead of him as long as he continues to put in the miles and train smart over the summer break,” said Sims.
On the women’s side, Sims saw a trio of runner move ahead of the class: Lopes’ freshmen Julia Allen, Kaylee Padour and Naomi Hopper. Both Allen and Padour set their sights on running their first ever half-marathon, and with the help of Sims and the support of their teammates, they did just that in the first race of 2018, the Synchrony Financial Rock ‘N’ Roll Arizona Marathon. Allen and Padour both finished top 35 in their age division in the race.
“I am excited about them finding a race that they enjoy to train for and compete,” said Sims. “Keep an eye out for these two young ladies as they continue to improve while attending GCU.”
In the last race of the season, the GCU Run to Fight Cancer, Hopper capped off her year with a first-place finish in both her age division (16-19) and female division overall.
“This young lady not only trains regularly but she works hard to do well academically too,” said Sims. “Her finish at GCU Run to Fight Cancer is a great way to finish your season.”
Sims had two goals in mind at the start of the season: 1) double the club in size; 2) help students reach their fitness goals. Sims saw both her goals achieved.
“My ultimate goal-alongside two of my team leaders, Kaley Ault and Andi Bergman-was to grow the club, and we did,” said Sims. “Our team doubled from last season (from 14 members in 2016-2017 to 31 this past year) and with that, there were more training partners to help each other achieve their fitness goals.”
Sims and the Running Club were able to reach a variety of fitness and race goals, from first-time running long distance to tackling first-ever half-marathons.
“I absolutely love being able to share my passion for fitness and training alongside my team,” said Sims.
“They motivate me to reach my fitness goals, and in turn, I hope that I inspire them. I hope to have my team, with the help of my team leaders, reach out to the community or youth running clubs by giving back any way we can.”
“It was a great season. I beyond blessed with the growth of the team.”
The team’s favorite race came with sweet reward.
The Annual Hot Chocolate 15k and 5k, America’s “sweetest” race. Why? After each participant finished the race, they received a chocolate bar-shaped medal, delicious chocolate gift baskets and a goodie bag with a participant jacket.
Behind every great runner is a greater supporter system.
Lopes’ senior team leader Andi Bergman summed it up:
“Going to Denny’s with the team, and seeing your running mates screaming your name when you are finishing a race.”
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