The West Michigan Harriers running team is tackling the winter season with full force


For twelve years, the very best high school runners from around the Grand Rapids area have been competing for an intense team now known as the West Michigan Harriers. The purpose of this team is to place high school runners in the best position possible for their high school seasons.

Strongly urged to attend a practice by his coaches, senior Geoffrey Batterbee decided to join the strong team of runners and become a member of the West Michigan Harriers. Founded by Greg Meyer, champion of the 1983 Boston Marathon, the team helps to set runners, like Geoffrey, up for a successful running season. 

“During the off-season for high school running months, there are a few pretty hard workouts per week,” Geoffrey said. “A bunch of different people from different schools come together and work with each other to do this every week, and it’s pretty cool.”

For Geoffrey, the winter season is not only a time to progress as a runner, but it is an amazing opportunity for him to reach out and connect with other runners he will be competing with during the high school season.

“I really like getting to know people from other schools,” Geoffrey said. “When I am competing with them during the season, it’s cool because I can talk to them, and they are not just competitors that I don’t know.”

For two days every week in December, the runners are put through some of the most strenuous workouts they will ever encounter. Everything from special threshold runs on Saturdays to hill repeats on Mondays help to build up the runner’s endurance for the upcoming seasons.

For high school runners like Geoffrey, the most abundant challenge present during the winter training is most certainly the extreme difficulty of the runs that they will endure.

“The workouts are a lot harder than the workouts during the school year, especially because it is outside during the winter, and it’s really cold,” Geoffrey said. “I feel good after the workouts, but during the workouts, I always feel really [bad].”

During the challenging training and difficult races, Geoffrey isn’t the only one from FHC working hard. High school teammate and sophomore Jonah Cumings is joining the Harriers this year; he was invited by Geoffrey and is ready to tackle the season head-on.

“I was invited to go one day, but I didn’t,” Jonah said. “I didn’t know it was a whole team and big program. I just thought it was a running group, but it’s really fun.”

Whether the team is practicing at John Ball Park or on the Aquinas College track, the team is putting in a wholehearted effort to become better for their favorite high school events. Although the practices get very tough, the team keeps an open mind and come together as one.

For Jonah, practicing with the West Michigan Harriers is the perfect way for him to better himself in his favorite track event: the one-mile run.

“My favorite event is the mile because it is just the perfect distance,” Jonah said. “The two-mile is too long to race, and the 800 meter kills you because you have to run super fast the entire time. So, the mile is that perfect running pace.”

West Michigan Harriers head coach Jackson Fox has been involved in the running community for 28 years, and as a coach, he loves to see runners like Geoffrey and Jonah make breakthrough performances and become the best athletes they can possibly be.

“I love watching all of the runners gain confidence and improve,” Fox said. “I think my favorite aspect of coaching this group is watching runners from many different high schools come together, encourage one another, and work toward self-improvement in the sport of distance running.

For Geoffrey, he has had much experience with this style and intensity of running, but Jonah is jumping into things without knowing much about the team itself. Whether it is the strength needed to compete or the determination needed to succeed, Jonah is ready for the challenge.

“I think running is really fun,” Jonah said. “I like to push myself, and I like the achievement of going fast and outpacing other people.”

The West Michigan Harriers running team isn’t only making athletes better runners, but it is teaching them skills that will carry people through the rest of their lives. Having determination is a key aspect of running, and it is being greatly instilled in the personalities of the runners on the team.

 “Running with the team has taught me that when you continue to work hard,” Geoffrey said, “even though you don’t have to be, it really helps [you] when you actually do have to work your very hardest.”