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Grand Valley State University's Beacon Since 1963, Allendale, MI
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Winchester shoots for top finish in '14

Senior looks to lead #1 Lakers to 3rd straight title


“She really is a bullet,” junior Jessica Janecke said. “No matter the competition, she puts herself in the race and is great ammunition for the team.”

Senior runner Allyson Winchester is just that for the women’s cross country team, only without the sound of a gun. She’s all speed, no noise.

After placing third at the 2013 NCAA Division II National Championship – the highest finish by a GVSU cross country runner in a national championship race – Winchester has plenty of reason to talk a big game.

But that’s not her style. The breakfast of this champion seems to be modesty with a hearty side of humbleness.

“She’s not the vocal type, but her accomplishments speak for themselves,” GVSU coach Jerry Baltes said. “Her refuse-to-lose mentality makes her one of the fiercest competitors when the gun goes off.

“That never-say-die attitude to always instinctively outpace opponents sets her as a viable contender always.”

Winchester is certainly a contender, and a competitor.

GVSU placed third at nationals in 2011, but reclaimed the crown in 2012 – and Winchester had a lot to do with it.

She placed sixth in the 2012 Division II National Championship with a personal-best time in competitive races (20:28.9), and also tacked on her second USTFCCCA All-American honor, a Midwest Region Athlete of the Year award and a number of other notable accolades.

“People look up to her as a competitor,” Janecke said. “They want to have the same tenacity as she does in races.”

Then, in 2013, Winchester had a pair of top-10 finishes that helped the Lakers advance to the national meet. She placed second in the GLIAC Championship (22:09.4) and sixth in the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional Championship (21:41.0).

At the national meet, her third-place time (21:05.7) helped lead the team to glory yet again in a dominant 37-point victory over Adams State University. It was the program’s third national title in four years.

She said it’s all about winning for her teammates, and the fact that they rely on her is what gives her the most strength and perseverance.

However, even after winning two national crowns, this competitor isn’t satisfied.

“We have [a championship] under our belt,” she said. “That doesn’t mean that’s going to happen again. We pretty much have to work from the ground up.”

This season, the limelight will be on Winchester as she prepares to defend GVSU’s national title while continuing to excel individually, striving to become the best in the nation.

While she admits an individual win at nationals would top off an impressive career, she doesn’t get caught up in her accolades as much as others might.

It’s all about her teammates.

“I want to go out big,” she said of the 2014 season. “I don’t want to let my team down. They’re training just as hard.”

Still, Winchester’s determined attitude makes her personal goal not a dream but an accomplishment within reach.

With top finishes at national championships, Winchester has proved to be a standout competitor and a stellar teammate.

She remains confident that, should all go well, she can continue improving her position at the national level – which could mean either a first or second place finish in November at E.P. Tom Sawyer Park in Louisville, Ky.



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