GVSU senior poised to help men’s cross country achieve greatness

GVL/Kevin Sielaff
#437 Chad Cini

GVL/Kevin Sielaff #437 Chad Cini

Andy Smith

For Grand Valley State senior Chad Cini, cross country goes hand in hand with leadership and respect.

His teammates can vouch for the leadership.

He can vouch for the respect.

“I never let my jersey touch the ground, I treat it with the same kind of respect that I have for the American flag, and you have to have respect for it,” Cini said.

A two-time returning USTFCCCA All-American for the Lakers, Cini is poised for another big season. The Northville, Michigan native was the third Laker to cross the finish line at GVSU’s only meet so far this season. Cini’s time of 25:27 at the MSU Spartan Invite in East Lansing, Michigan, earned him a 13th-place finish, behind just senior Kyle Flores and freshman Zach Panning from the Laker racers.

Cini’s success isn’t a secret. It’s not a magic formula nor is it purely natural talent. It’s simply hard work.

“He is a hard worker, and has a tremendous work ethic,” said GVSU head coach Jerry Baltes. “He is just a grinder. He comes out and works hard every day, doesn’t let anything get in his way, when the gun goes off he is a fierce competitor.

“He is one of those guys that works really hard every day, hopefully the young people are looking at him and want to emulate him and do the same things he is doing and work hard for these results.”

Putting the time in and putting his head down doesn’t lead to a lot of flash for Cini. What it does tend to lead to, however, are results. In 2013, Cini finished 22nd at the national championship meet. At the 2014 nationals, Cini slid in at 36th, as the Lakers finished in second place overall. If GVSU’s young roster pays attention to the steps Cini has taken to success, the Lakers could be sprinting for even greener pastures in the future.

“Chad may not be the vocal leader, but he leads by example. He’s very smart, and has been around the sport for a long time,” said senior Kyle Flores. “He knows what it takes to help get runners to the national level, and strives with his honesty.

“Hopefully we will finish right next to each other at the national meet, we both want to raise the trophy and end on the highest note possible.”

Cini credits his success to a year-long, rather than a season-long, dedication to the sport. Miles in the season are timed and scored. Miles in the offseason, while maybe timed by the runners themselves, are what push those times in the season down and push GVSU cross country to the top.

His pre-race focus doesn’t hurt, either.

“It is important for me to keep up on the training and not give myself too much time off, and make sure I stay in shape when I am not actually running,” Cini said. “Before the race I always stay focused, get into a quiet area by myself and think about where I am going to be pushing on course, where it’s important to make moves and to make sure I keep up with who I have to. It’s a relaxed atmosphere for me the night before a race and I don’t like to think about it too much, so I don’t stress myself out.”

The goal for Cini and the rest of the GVSU men’s cross country team will be to move up one more podium spot at the NCAA Division II National Championship meet this season. The Lakers came up just short last season, and, for the seniors, anything else would be a disappointment.

GVSU is back in action Oct. 3 at the Greater Louisville Classic in Louisville, Kentucky.