By Kyle Daubs

Grace Spoonhour had a good feeling after she left Heartland College’s campus in Normal. 

It all started with the Charleston senior runner reaching out to Heartland coach Ty Wolf via email. After an official visit, Spoonhour has verbally committed to the nationally-ranked cross country program. 

“I met the coach and some of the other runners and really enjoyed the dynamic of the team,” said Spoonhour. “I also loved the campus and the facilities they had to offer. Overall, it felt like a great fit for me in many ways, and I am excited to run there next fall.”

Heartland is an NJCAA Division III program that competes in the Midwest Athletic Conference. The Heartland women’s team is one of the best schools in the nation after not having a cross country program one year ago. At the NJCAA Cross Country Championships, the women took second, losing the championship by just three points to Cowley College in Kansas. 

The team returns two of its All-Americans in Olivia Boyd and Brooke Evans next season.

Spoonhour believes that she can help contribute right away. 

“There are so many amazing runners coming in next year. I think that we will all be able to push each other in some way, whether that be mental or physical,” said Spoonhour. “I am not sure exactly where I will fit in time-wise, but I’m excited to learn and grow as a runner and an overall athlete.”

As a junior, Spoonhour broke the 20-minute mark eight times after accomplishing that feat just once in her first two seasons at Charleston High School. Spoonhour qualified for the state meet as an individual the past two years after earning All-Apollo Conference honors. 

Teammate Megan Garrett previously signed with NJCAA Division II powerhouse Adams State. 

“I am thankful that I have such supportive friends, family, teammates, and coaches,” said Spoonhour. “I would specifically like to thank Coach John McInerney for guiding me in my beginning search of schools and for introducing me to Heartland’s program.”

Spoonhour remains hopeful for a high school track season. 

“I am very excited and grateful to continue my running career in college,” said Spoonhour. “To me, being a college athlete comes with responsibility and dedication to not only yourself, but your team. Being on a team has been one of the greatest highlights of my high school career and I am excited to continue that into college.”