After claiming their second straight Region 19 title on Saturday, Oct. 28, Mercer’s women’s cross country team made a ‘cross country’ journey of their own, all the way to the Midwest for the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) meet in Fort Dodge Iowa on Saturday, Nov. 11.
Their performance this year marked a substantial improvement over the team’s performance in the 2016 NJCAA meet. Last year, head coach Mike DeAngelis’s squad placed last out of all the teams who qualified, but in 2017 Mercer made the jump to thirty-first out of the 42 teams contending.
When asked what factors he thought led to his team’s improvement at this year’s meet, Coach DeAngelis told The VOICE: “This group of freshman and sophomores put a maximum effort into becoming better every day.” He went on to say, “It involves dedication on and off the field. They are sound students and work hard in all aspects of life.”
Of the 309 runners competing in the 5K race, every member of Mercer’s group improved upon their times compared to last year, and their times at the Regional 19 meet.
Freshman runner Olivia Reiss said, “Patience is key to succeeding and moving forward.” She added, “I have become a better runner compared to the beginning of the season due to trusting my coaches training and all the hard work I put in this season.”
Reiss finished with a time of 21:17, averaging seven minutes per mile at Nationals. She placed 181st out of 308 athletes competing.
“I competed in a race full of very talented girls and it was an honor running with them and having that experience,” Reiss said.
Coach DeAngelis, who has served in that position says: “Moving forward we want to raise the bar as far as our expectations go. The goal is to progress every season and have a stronger finish at nationals each season.”
MCCC’s Athletic Director John Simone says of the team: “We are very proud of the development of this team and the hard work they put into training. We anticipate with three or four of the top runners being a freshman that they will return and place higher next year.”