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Cross Country Teams Measure Success in Personal Bests


West Windsor, N.J. -- This year the Mercer County Community College (MCCC) women’s cross country team, now in its fifth season, welcomed the men’s team as the college’s tenth athletic team.

According to Head Coach Mike DeAngelis, the addition of the men’s team was seamless. “It worked really well.  They pushed each other in practice and got along on the course and off the course,” he said.

With the same schedule of eight meets -- practically every Saturday from late August to late October -- that kind of camaraderie was particularly welcome on race days. “The women typically ran first.  The men would cheer them on and vice versa,” DeAngelis said.

The second-year coach reports that this group of eight women and eight men worked hard, with runners participating in almost every lunchtime practice. “With 16 runners, we were able to run in different packs. It’s not realistic for everyone to run at the same speed, especially on long runs, so it was great to be able to break up into groups,” he said.

With the weather unseasonably warm for the duration of the season, DeAngelis notes that noon practices were often uncomfortably hot. “But you want the team to practice in the same conditions in which races take place.  They needed to be used to it,” he said.

Both squads had runners with a range of experience, from novices to those who had run competitively in high school. But DeAngelis said that every runner improved his or her time by at least five minutes, his goal from the outset of the season. He is especially proud of freshman Denise Mosquera, an athlete new to the sport who improved by her time ten minutes.

From left, Coach DeAngelis, Kelly Greenewald, Megan Jean, Lismarie Godinez, Anna Prendergast, Yoseline Chiguil-Figueroa, Sage Southard, Yael Fisher, Ivett Figueroa and Denise Mosquera.
From left, Coach DeAngelis, Zakary Kidell, Ousman Joof, Tre Foster, Russell Budd, Aaron Paton, Ryan Prendergast and Corey Moser.

So, while the Vikings did not take home any trophies this year, there were many moments of individual triumph. Freshman Sage Southard (Westampton, NJ/Rancocas Valley HS), the women’s squad’s top runner, came in fourth in the region. Freshman Ryan Prendergast (East Windsor/Notre Dame HS), the top runner on the men’s side, was Mercer’s first finisher in every race.  Zakary Kidell (Hamilton, NJ/Steinert HS) also had a solid season, and, along with Russell Budd (West Creek, NJ/Pinelands Regional HS), proved a strong leader and team motivator.

DeAngelis notes that Budd has studied the trails at Mercer County Park. “Russell helped us navigate the trails. He is a nature enthusiast and is passionate about running.”

He also points to Ivett Figueroa, the lone sophomore on the women’s team, as an athlete who blended her love for sports with her goal to be a teacher. Every Friday after practice, she volunteered for Unified Sports at Mercer, a program where Education majors played soccer with students with disabilities who are enrolled in MCCC’s DREAM program.

DeAngelis says his goal for his runners is twofold. He wants them to earn their associate degrees and be successful students first and foremost.  And he also wants them to develop the physical and mental toughness to be competitive on the race course – the  kind of strength that will translate well in all areas of their lives.

When the two go together, as they did this year, DeAngelis is a very satisfied coach.

The women's roster also included Yoseline Chiguil-Figueroa, Yael Fisher, Kelly Greenewald, Megan Jean and Anna Prendergast. Also on the men's roster were Tre Foster, Ousman Joof, Corey Moser, Aaron Paton and Ange Tape.

Watch video of the teams in action here.

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