The Joliet Junior College men’s and women’s cross-country teams excelled both in individual races and as a team at the national NJCAA Division III championship Saturday, Nov. 8 at Finger Lakes Community College in Canandaigua, New York. The women’s team placed seventh out of 15 teams overall and the men’s team placed eighth out of 19 teams overall.
Individual winners included Meghan Gray of Clifton and Salvador Lazaro of Joliet, who both placed 13th in their races and received All-American Honors. As winners, they received a medal and a NJCAA certificate.
This is the second time in both JJC men and women’s cross-country history that a player received All-American Honors.
In 2010 and 2011, then-cross-country runner Claudia Davila, who now serves as JJC’s assistant cross-country coach, was awarded with All-American honors. Two years ago, the first men’s cross-country team runner to receive the award was Sam Froemel.
This year was an especially successful year for the women’s team, according to JJC Cross-Country Coach Rich McCarthy.
“This is the best women’s team we have ever had. All seven qualifying women placed in the top 50 at nationals, which is pretty exceptional,” he said. “They’re just very fast – even from the very start we knew it was going to be a special group. We have a very young team, with eight out of the ten women being freshmen. They gained some valuable experience at the national level and we are excited about our chances next year.”
In addition to the women’s team, the men’s team is also primarily comprised of freshmen, including six out of nine runners. The second highest place for JJC’s national scores for the men’s team went to Hugo Hernandez of Joliet, who finished 16th.
“This is the first time, for the men’s team, that we’ve had two students get into the top 20,” McCarthy said. “Going to nationals helped the entire team gain the experience so that they’ll be ready for next year. Since a lot of teams in our division are on the east coast – like New York, Boston, Long Island – we don’t get to see those teams during the regular season. So, this year we got a better look at what we’re in for next year.”
McCarthy said his goal for next year is simple – he wants to help the runners place higher in the national championship.
JJC’s cross-country season begins on Aug. 1 and goes through November, with six competitive races during the season.
For more information about JJC’s cross-country team, visit http://www.jjc.edu/athletics.