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      53-year-old student athlete inspires teammates

      Cross country running, like most sports, takes dedication for the athletes to succeed.At Gogebic Community College, the cross country coach there finds it sometimes difficult to motivate the team."The biggest challenge is motivating the athletes to do their best because they anticipate being one of the best, coming from a high school program where they were one of the best," said Will Andresen, GCC Cross Country Coach. "And then they come to a college program, competing against people that are three or four years older than they are. And sometimes, it's a real challenge to get them to slow down a little bit."At age 53, Kurt Behrendt is all the motivation that the GCC Cross country team needs."Just seeing him do it at his old age is really inspirational because he gets out there, and he works as hard as he can and really goes after it," said teammate Nathan Foster. "And it has a trickle-down effect; it makes me want to make sure that I'm getting out and getting my runs in."Kurt, now the oldest cross country runner and possibly oldest athlete in general that GCC has ever seen, has just started running with them this year. But he's no stranger to cross country.. "I was actually on the 1976 Gogebic Cross Country team, the first one they ever had," said Behrendt.Working and carrying a full load, he withdrew from college in 1976 and went on to work for 29 years at the former Ontonagon paper mill, Smurfit-Stone. But when the paper mill closed down, he saw it as a chance to return to school to study Criminal Justice and to continue running."I had the opportunity to run once again at a different level, an older level, but it's been a blast. It's been fun and I cherish every moment of it," Behrendt said.He and his 10 teammates compete every weekend against other schools, running up to five miles at a time. How does Kurt keep up?"It's the sore muscles. It's taken a lot of Advil," Behrendt said. "So, I just keep on going and, hopefully, my body can hold out for another five or six weeks."