Warmer weather is just one thing freshman cross country runner Janey Berends was thankful for when she moved to Jackson from Grand Rapids,
Michigan to attend Union.
“I hate the cold,” she said. “I enjoy the snow, but only for a little while.”
Berends, an undecided major, “loves just going on a run in beautiful weather and knowing I’m in shape enough to do so.”
She also said she valued the camaraderie being part of a collegiate athletic team brings.
“Everybody is so supportive and encouraging,” she said.
This season, Berends was part of the first women’s cross country team to win a Gulf South Championship. She cited the team’s interdependence as a major factor in its success.
“The strength in our team isn’t in having one standout runner, but we have a really strong pack,” she said. “If one of us has a bad day, there are five of us behind to pick her up.”
Berends has been running cross country since elementary school. Her older sister and one of her triplet sisters are also on Union’s cross country team.
“It’s just what we do,” she said. “Being at college with your sisters is like having other friends, but those friends know everything about your life.”
Outside of cross country, Berends plays the french horn in band, is a member of the honors community and enjoys reading.
Cross country runner Jacob Whitney is a sophomore cell and molecular biology major from Chandler, Arizona.
He has been running since 4th grade, and loves it because “it is the purest form of competition there is…It all comes down to who has trained the hardest and who has the most grit,” Whitney said.
While Whitney isn’t crazy about the 5:30 a.m. runs being on the cross country team involves, he loves his teammates and the bond running builds between them.
“If it weren’t for the guys and girls on the team, running wouldn’t be worth it to me,” Whitney said. “That’s the main reason I decided to come to Union…there isn’t another place quite like it.”
In addition to enjoying the camaraderie of his team, Whitney said he has high hopes for his team’s futures success.
“This season has been a building year…the guys are all working hard and we are improving every day,” he said. “Next year we hope to go to nationals.”
Outside of cross country, Whitney said he enjoys mountain biking, hiking, camping and being involved in Young Life, a ministry where college students mentor high school students.
“My favorite part of being a Young Life leader is just being able to live life with high school guys, being able to share experiences with them and through that present them with the gospel,” he said.
In the future, he plans to attend Physician’s Assistant School and see where God leads him afterward, Whitney said.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Janey Berends as her sister and had an incorrect photo. The article was updated Nov. 21 to correct the error.