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Women's Cross Country Crosses Finish Line
On Inaugural Season


West Windsor, N.J. -- The goal of competitive runners is to cross the finish line in a time they can be proud of. But heading into the season, Head Coach Erin Cahill had a different goal for Mercer's first women's cross country team in twenty years - getting to the starting line.

The Vikings lacked enough numbers to compete as a full-scoring team. But the two women who joined the squad, while short on past running experience, made dramatic improvements over the course of the season. Freshmen Graci Leal and Chikasimara Amu-Nnadi ran personal bests at the Region 19 Championships on October 30 at Thompson Park in Lincroft, NJ, earning them Division I All-Region honors, with Amu-Nnadi finishing 6th and Leal finishing 7th in the Division I 5K race.

"Clearly, these runners made a major commitment to a new sport, improving both their endurance and their form. Graci and Chika did whatever I asked of them. They never complained about any workouts, just pushed themselves to get better each time," Cahill said.

She observes that while physical fitness is the most obvious benefit of running, training for meets is also a mental test. "You have to be focused and dedicated to your goal." In addition to the championships, the regular season included four meets, in which Mercer competed with both two- and four-year schools.

Cahill is optimistic about 2011, anticipating that both Leal and Amu-Nnadi will return to run as sophomores. "I hope these two girls will carry the success of the last meet into the off-season and use it as an incentive to continue to train for next year," she said.

Cahill also hopes to field a full-scoring team (five runners). She has already heard from several current students who have expressed interest in joining the squad next fall and will continue vigorous recruitment efforts at area high schools.

"This year was about laying the foundation for future seasons and getting the word out about Mercer women's cross country. We may not have had a full scoring team, but we got to compete and ended with two All-Region performances. I would call that a success," Cahill said.

For more information on sports-related majors at MCCC, click on Exercise Science here or Sports Management here.


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From left, Coach Erin Cahill with runners
Graci Leal and Chika Amu-Nnadi
Chikasimara Amu-Nnadi
Graci Leal