By John Jarvi
Local Sports Journal
Muskegon Community College will have its men’s and women’s Jayhawk cross country teams competing in the National Junior College Athletic Association national championships Nov. 9.
MCC qualified its teams by placing fourth in the 12-team men’s Region XII race and fifth in the women’s Region XII race.
The Jayhawk men had a national best of 21st since restarting the program in recent years, but Coach Dan Fishel is hoping for an improvement. The 8K NJCAA race will start at 11 a.m., central time, at Lakeside Golf Course in Fort Dodge, Iowa. The women’s 5K race will follow at the same location at noon, central time.
“The men are currently ranked 19th in the country, but I think if everyone puts together a personal best race on the same day, we could be a top 10 team,” said Dan Fishel, the MCC coach.
“I’ve heard the course in Fort Dodge is fast. Since the restart of the program, the top men’s finish has been 21st so we hope to beat that by a lot this year, hopefully, if things go well.”
Making the trip for the MCC men’s team will be Esrom Woldemichael, Mathias Waterstradt, Alex Drew, Jacob Baker, Austin Elliott, Cameron Kroening and David VanBergen. Waterstradt is from North Muskegon, Drew is from Coopersville, Baker from Mona Shores, Elliott from Spring Lake, Kroening from Orchard View and VanBergen from Fruitport.
Woldemichael, who is from Grand Rapids Northview, has a personal 8K best of 25:56.
“I think Woldemichael has a really good chance to be an All-American, and Mathias, Baker and Drew have chances as well if they put great races together.”
The MCC men won back-to-back national junior college cross country titles in 1963 and 1964 under the late Rudy Bartels.
Fishel will be taking all freshmen to Fort Dodge on the women’s team. Included in the group are Andrea Lavigne from Mason County Central; Summer Hussey, from Reeths-Puffer; Samantha Eely from Oakridge; Brielle Johnson and Erika Bayak from North Muskegon; and Claudia Melton and Miranda Buckwald from Grand Haven.
“Last year was our first time qualifying a whole women’s team for the nationals, and we took 25th,” Fishel said. “This year our goal is to better that place. For the women, I think Andrea and Summer have a chance at that All-American honor.”
Fishel said it will be possible for MCC cross country followers to see the national races on the internet. Check out the Muskegon Community College Cross Country Facebook Page if you want to see the live podcast of the races, Fishel said.