Country Team Competes at Nationals in New Mexico
Windsor, N.J. - - In just its second season as a team, the women's
cross country team sent four runners to Hobbs, New Mexico, for
the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division
I Championships, hosted by New Mexico Junior College. Head Coach
Erin Cahill called the trip "an amazing experience for
all of us." Freshmen Erika Manley, Sierra Downs, Jaqueline
Goncalves, and Anajae Register represented the Vikings in a
meet that featured 52 teams and 268 runners.
5K race took place Nov. 12 at Ocotillo Golf Course in Hobbs.
Cahill reports that although the weather was warm, high winds
produced slower times overall. Erika Manley was Mercer's top
runner with a time of 23:50.56, beating a rival from Essex
(NJ) CC who had beaten her at the Region 19 Championships
in October. Sierra Downs crossed the finish line in 24:52.65,
just 10 seconds behind an Essex runner who had finished over
two minutes faster than her at regionals.
MCCC cross country goes national! Pictured, from left, are Erika
Manley, Jaqueline Goncalves, Sierra Downs, Coach Erin Cahill
and Anajae Register.
Cahill notes that Manley and Downs went into nationals well-prepared.
"Both runners had strong workouts prior to the trip.
They ran their best times of the year in their last meet.
They worked hard all year and their dedication and effort
notes that the first time at nationals is always a learning
experience. "It's much easier the second time around,
as you've been through it and know what to expect," she
observes. Cahill knows this firsthand, having twice competed
at the NCAA Division III Championships as an undergrad runner
for The College of New Jersey . "I put so much pressure
on myself the first time that I didn't race well, but the
second time out I knew what to expect and just treated it
as another race. Not surprisingly, I ran much better."
on the season as a whole, Cahill notes that the team's first
achievement was having enough runners to compete as a full
scoring team. "And to have four runners running at nationals
was awesome," she said.
anticipates all four runners will return next year and believes
their experience at nationals will motivate them to train
hard in the off-season. They will also better prepared if
they return to the national stage. "By seeing the best
in the country, these girls now know what it takes to get
to the next level. I expect us to come back even stronger
and faster next year. We showed we can compete with these
In addition to serving as a bonding experience, the trip allowed
the runners to experience a different part of the country.
"New Mexico and western Texas have a lot of open land,"
Cahill said. "There are oil rigs, cotton fields, and
tumbleweeds. It made us appreciate the different lifestyle
and environment of the Southwest."
From a coaching perspective, Cahill was glad to have the opportunity
to talk with coaches from the other community colleges. "It
was good to hear about their experiences in other parts of
the country, which were not so different from ours in in New
was assisted this season by Chris Wetzel.
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