Sprts News Sports News
Calendar Latest Sports News Athletic Home www.mccc.edu

Cross Country Team Competes at Nationals in New Mexico


West 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.

The championship 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 paid off."

The coach 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."

Reflecting 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.

Cahill 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 other schools."

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 Jersey."

Cahill was assisted this season by Chris Wetzel.

Return to Athletics Home Page

Return to Women's Cross Country Page

Return to Sports News