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Miles Add Up to Trophies for Women’s Cross Country Team


West Windsor, N.J. – For the first time in the five-year history of the women’s cross country program at Mercer, the Vikings brought home two first-place trophies during the season. “They loved earning the trophies. They were all smiles,” reports Head Coach Mike DeAngelis.

He adds that running is an objective sport. “The proof of their hard work is in the numbers.”

The team participated in eight meets, culminating in the Region 19 Championship on Oct. 25, where the Vikings came in second behind Essex County College. Three Mercer women finished in the top ten: Hixlayne Cuetia-Rodriguez (5th), Cai Cai Hahn (7th) and Jerlin Fernandez (10th). Ivett Figueroa finished 12th and Rebeckha Sanchez finished 14th. Sophomore Rachael Wilson, who started out strong early in the season, got injured and was unable to compete.

According to DeAngelis, five of the team’s members were returning sophomores.  “A solid nucleus was established last year under Coach Erin Cahill.  They came into the season ready to run and eager to improve”  he said. Figueroa, a freshman, was the squad’s only new member.

“They were such an excellent group both athletically and academically. They all did the right things,” DeAngelis said, adding that team members ran from three to eight miles every weekday at noon.

Their level of commitment reaped rewards.  Fernandez ran her personal best at the championship meet and Figueroa reduced her five-mile time from 38 to 27 minutes in the course of the season.  Top runner Cuetia-Rodriguez and the spirited Hahn made major strides and helped the team develop into a close-knit unit.

DeAngelis says that consistency was the hallmark of this squad. “Just about every runner showed up for practice every day.  They ran when it was sunny and they ran when it was cool and rainy, and nobody complained. They developed mental toughness that will serve them well in running and in life.”

DeAngelis notes that the runners juggled multiple demands on their time.  “All of them are full-time students and some of them work.  And, with all of that, they truly gave 100 percent to the season.”

Figueroa is expected to be the only returning runner in 2015.  DeAngelis says the team will be looking for recruits – women who want to get into tip-top shape and possess a love for the sport.

From left, Coach Mike DeAngelis, Cai Cai Hahn, Jerlin Fernandez, Rachael Wilson, Rebeckha Sanchez, Ivett Figueroa, Hixlayne Cuetia-Rodriguez and student manager Diana Tavernas, who competed on the team in 2012 and 2013.

During pratice, from left, Hahn Fernandez, Wilson, Figueroa and Cuetia-Rodriguez.
Runners display their trophy from the Dukes Invitational meet.

DeAngelis was assisted by student manager Diana Tavernas, who ran for the Vikings in 2012 and 2013. “Diana was instrumental.  She ran with the team during every practice. The girls looked up to her and really excelled because of her guidance.  They got a taste of what a great cross country runner looks like,” he said.

DeAngelis takes over the reins from Erin Cahill, who established the program in 2010. "We are grateful to Erin for her contributions," MCCC Athletics Director John Simone said. "She started with two students and built the team to a full roster of competitive runners who have also had a strong track record of success in the classroom."

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