By John Jarvi
Local Sports Journal

MUSKEGON – Muskegon Community College will be sending both its men’s and women’s cross country teams to the National Junior College Athletic Association national meet Saturday in Lubbock, Texas, for the third year in a row.

Both teams advanced to nationals with their performance at the NJCAA Region XII meet Oct. 25. The Jayhawk men’s team took fifth out of 13 teams in the region while the women’s team came in fourth out of 13 teams.

“We’ve run well lately, but we still haven’t had that perfect team race where everyone sets a personal record,” said Dan Fishel, who coaches both teams. “Our women’s team has a shot at the top 10 if we all run well at the same time, and I believe we have two women that have a shot at All-American honors if they stay healthy. Time will tell, but I like our chances.”

Deanna Near rates as the best MCC runner going into nationals. She took seventh place in the Region XII race and earned All-Region, All-Conference and All-Freshman team honors with her time of 19:18 for the 5K distance.

Andrea Lavigne also has been one of the top runners for the MCC women’s team, finishing 18th in the Region XII meet.

Other runners for the Jayhawk women’s squad are Samatha Eely, Raquel Zavala, Andie YoungMarlee Harris and Sabrina Smith.This will be the third season in a row MCC has qualified its women’s team for the nationals after starting the program in 2010. The Jayhawk women’s team placed 25th and  24th in its first two trips to nationals.

The Jayhawk men are advancing to the nationals for the fifth year in a row since resuming the cross country program in 2010. MCC’s men won national championships in 1963 and 1964. They finished 14th at nationals last fall.

Fishel said the men’s team has made good progress all season, but the dropped back a little bit in the regional.

“As a runner you know that you don’t (set a personal record) every day, and I’m sure the guys will bounce back in a big way at the nationals,” said Fishel.

Leading the MCC men at nationals will be former Mona Shores runner Jacob Baker, who finished fourth in the Region XII meet with a 26:32 clocking.

“Jake ran in third place for most of the race and earned All-Region and All-Conference honors for his great race,” Fishel said.

Also making the trip for MCC will be Colin Duca, Austin Persoon, Dominic Flores, Lenin Castillo, Dylan Medendorp and Austin Kleiner.