The Muskegon Community College men’s and women’s cross country teams competed at the NJCAA Division 1 National Championships in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Less than ideal conditions greeted runners with a race-time temperature in the 30’s with wind and light rain.
The men’s race began well for the 25th-ranked Jayhawks but one of their top-5 runners was forced to drop out due to an injury. The remaining men battled hard but came up short of their goal, finishing 34th out of 44 full teams. “When you run at nationals everything has to go right for a great team place because everyone at nationals is so good,” said Coach Dan Fishel. “Three of our top 4 runners had their best races of the season on Saturday, and I know everyone else gave everything they had. We needed 5 PR’s to achieve our goal of a top 25 team this year.”
Leading the Jayhawks was freshman Mitch Johnson (Fruitport HS) who finished in 77th place out of 320 finishers with a time of 27:01. He was the 4th best finisher from Michigan behind 3 Lansing runners and he beat the top Grand Rapids runner for the first time all season. Also running their best races of the season were freshman Tylor Carmean (Oakridge HS) finishing in 27:49 and sophomore Brandon Harthorn (Cedar Springs HS) finishing in 28:49. “Our men have a lot to be proud of this season,” continued Coach Fishel. “Many of the guys ran an equal or faster pace for an 8k than they ran for a 5k in high school during the season, and that says a lot. I’ve really enjoyed coaching this group of guys, and we’ve had a lot to be thankful for this season.”
The women had the most complete team race of the day finishing in 30th place out of 42 full teams. Leading the way for the women was sophomore Kendra Irvine (Reeths-Puffer HS) taking 136th place out of 309 finishers with a time of 20:41. Running personal best or season best times were freshman Madison Cook (Newaygo HS) 21:12 season best time, freshman Katana Daniely (Fruitport HS) 21:55 personal best time, and freshman Kelly Brown (Fruitport HS) 22:09 personal best time. “Our women were the underdog team of the two of our teams competing at nationals,” said Coach Dan Fishel. “Our men were ranked 25th in the last rankings but our women only received 3 honorable mention national votes. That didn’t bother our women as they all had great races and actually finished higher than our men. Our women had a higher percentage of personal best times at our last race. I’m very proud of our women’s team this year and the journey we’ve had. Going into this past summer, we had a roster of 10 women, but for one reason or another, I started the season with my smallest women’s team roster of 6. Although I was originally worried, my worries quickly disappeared as these 6 women worked so hard and bonded so well! I don’t think I could have asked for any better team to coach this fall. We will greatly miss Kendra next fall, but I have a great feeling the other 5 women will continue to improve and defy the odds next year.