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MCCC Women’s Cross Country Runners Put Best Feet Forward at NJCAA National Tournament

11/14/17


At nationals are, front row from left, Claudia Baydar, Maria Ramos, Veronica Wise, Julia Moir, and Lesly Gonzalez; back row: Assistant Coach Doug Johnson, Olivia Reiss, Laura Gould, Hayley Baydar, Breanna Santini, and Head Coach Mike DeAngelis.

West Windsor, N.J. – During the Mercer County Community College (MCCC) women's cross country season that came to an end on Nov. 11, the team gave true meaning to the expression, "putting your best foot forward." Not only did they improve their performance significantly, but also developed a work ethic that will serve them well in athletics and in life.

Fourth-year Head Coach Mike DeAngelis couldn't be more proud of the 2017 squad. "The culture on the team was great. Their dedication to training was extremely impressive," he said.

For the second consecutive year, the Vikings won the Region 19 title and competed at the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) meet, which was held this year in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Last year, they came in last and were determined not to repeat that finish.

With every team member recording a better time than she did at regionals, they all came away satisfied with their 31st place finish out of 42 teams. A total of 309 runners participated in the 5K race.

The Vikings' top finisher was Haley Baydar, who won the Region 19 meet and crossed the NJCAA finish line first for Mercer in a time of 19:37 (53rd overall); her twin sister, Claudia, followed in 21:00. Then came Olivia Reiss (21:17), Veronica Wise (23:57) and Breanna Santini (24:41). Also competing were Maria Ramos, and Lesly Gonzalez.

DeAngelis says the weather was something to get used to from the moment they got off the plane. "The weather was a quick blast of winter. The field was open and windy, but the women still managed to run their best times," he said, adding that the trip to Iowa gave the women a taste of life in the Midwest. "None of us had been to Iowa before. It definitely seemed more laid back than the East Coast."

While the Vikings were not at the head of the pack at nationals, they went in with realistic expectations. "We took a major step forward this year and at this meet. We are happy we did better than last year and that each runner improved her performance," he said.

A less obvious take-away is the way the athletes learned to manage their time. "I give these women a lot of credit," DeAngelis said. "They are all good students. They worked out every day during their lunch break. And almost all of them have jobs. That's a lot to juggle."

DeAngelis says his goal for every one of his runners is that they work hard, prepare and put forth their best effort. "That's a lesson that will serve them well in life. Cross country teaches you discipline and resiliency. The runner's high is a real thing that can last a lifetime both mentally and physically."

According to DeAngelis, the team chemistry made this squad a pleasure to coach. "They loved competition and they worked to prepare for it. They got along great and served to motivate each other," he noted. Six members of the nine-member team are freshmen and DeAngelis hopes to welcome all of them back next season.

Assisting DeAngelis were Tony Genovesi, who has helped with recruiting and practice design, and Doug Johnson, who was a great motivator in workouts and during practices.

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