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Women's Cross Country Lends a Hand to Sandy Clean-Up Efforts


West Windsor, N.J. – While bad weather prevented the Mercer County Community Colllege women's cross country team from getting to the national tourament in Illinois, the women decided to put their time and energy into a cause that could not have been more worthwhile.

On Nov.10, four team members, along with head coach Erin Cahill and assistant coach Chris Wetzel, headed to the seaside community of Belmar to help with Hurricane Sandy clean-up.  The group spent three hours in one house cleaning out damaged items from a flooded basement and dragging them to the curb for pick-up. They also worked at a second property, removing a fence destroyed in the storm.

According to Cahill, sophomore Sierra Downs organized the project and was joined by fellow runners Erika Manley, Melissa Clair, and Karizma Brown. "Downs came up with the idea to turn the negative of not being able to compete at nationals into a positive by helping those in desperate need," Cahill explained.

Runner Melissa Clair summed it up best. "I’d rather be here in our own state helping those in need than traveling to go run in another state. I would have felt guilty with so many people hurting here,” Clair said.

Cahill added that it was a very humbling experience.  "You can see how bad it is on the news, but seeing the devastation firsthand was surreal.  It made us appreciate how lucky we were, even though Mercer county got hit pretty hard by Sandy." 

Cahill said the six who went down to Belmar gained a great appreciation of what will be entailed in the long-term clean-up. They also saw how complete strangers came together to help each other in a time of need. "That the best lesson we could have learned," she said.

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Coach Erin Cahill and runner Karizma Brown pull damaged items from a basement in Belmar.
Team members drag the remnants of a fence to the curb.