By Craig Beilfuss

MUSKEGON—Four time state champion cross country runner Abby VanderKooi from Western Michgan Christian will continue her running career at Grand Valley State University.

The WMC senior officially signed her letter of intent with the Lakers.

Not only is VanderKooi a standout out on the course, but also in the classroom. VanderKooi had a GPA of 3.981 and she intends to pursue a degree in nursing at GVSU.

The four-year cross country and track and field runner has won numerous championships in both sports.

Cross Country:

Four-time Lakes 8 Conference Champion, undefeated at the conference level in 4 years of cross country.

Four-time GMAA Champion and what is believed to be a first for a girls runner.

Four-time MHSAA Regional Champion, three times in Division 4 and once in Division 3

Four-time MHSAA State Champion, three times in Division 4, once in Division 3.

Joined a select club of girls and won four outright state titles in cross country since the consolidation of individual and team races at Michigan International Speedway (MIS).

Current girls Division 3 course record holder at MIS, 3 of the top 10 times all-time in Division 4 (second, seventh and ninth)..

Currently ranked 10th for all-divisions with a time of 17:12.47 in the state finals. That time is the current record in Division 3..

Two-time Footlocker/Eastbay Cross Country Championship first-team All-American with two third-place finishes. (2018 & 2019)

Currently holds the third-best all-time for Freshmen girls and the second-best time, all-time for sophomore girls on the historic Balboa Park course in San Diego, CA

Her sophomore mark of 16:55 is currently ninth all-time at Balboa and the fastest third place time ever, currently, on that course.

Footlocker/Eastbay Cross Country Regional Champion (2019) on the historic course at University of Wisconsin – Parkside in Kenosha, WI.

A two-time Gatorade Michigan Girls Cross Country Athlete of the Year. (2018, 2020)

Part of the 2021 Girls Cross Country Division 4 State Championship team for WMC, the first state championship for WMC in any girls’ sport.

Track: Only two seasons, 2020 (10th grade) season cancelled by COVID-19, 2021 (11th grade) season shortened by a non-running injury.

Two-time Lakes 8 Conference Champion in the 1600.

Lakes 8 Conference Champion in the 3200.

Two-time MHSAA Division 3 Regional Champion in the 3200.

Two-time MHSAA Division 3 State Champion in the 3200.

Current GMAA record holder in the 3200 with a time of 10:46.27.

Muskegon Western Michigan Christian senior Abby Vanderkooi

Her accomplishments leave WMC coach Greg Gould shaking his head.

“Abby has left her mark on the Muskegon-area, Michigan, and even national, high school girls distance running scene over her career at Western Michigan Christian,” Gould said. “That is an incredible statement to make if you know anything about the history of this area, the state of Michigan, and the current state of girls’ high school distance running nationally.

“Abby has competed in an era of incredible athletes, sometimes being one of the best in the country, but not necessarily even the best here in Michigan in any given moment” Gould said. “Her intensity and drive, whether in practice or in competition, make her a formidable competitor when she steps to starting line.”

Gould has cherished the last four years of having such a standout athlete at the high school level.

“I would summarize the experience as incredibly rewarding, challenging and humbling,” Gould said. “Often all at the same time, and that is the coaching experience I think all coaches have with their athletes and teams. For 4 years I got to experience it at a very high level of competition with Abby. It was very special to close out the high school cross country career of a great individual champion with our school’s first girls state championship in any sport.”

We are thrilled to have Abby joining our program. She brings a wealth of experience and potential,” said Grand Valley State University cross country coach Jerry Baltes. “We are looking forward to helping her progress her training and taking the next step in her racing.

She has had a great foundation built by Coach Gould,” Baltes said. “We are confident she will be able to come in and pick up from there and be a contributor for our team in helping us accomplish similar results as we have in the past.

We are excited to see what Abby does to finish out her high school career this spring,” Baltes said.