Women's cross country team prepares for nationals!
They are all freshmen who started this season unsure of what college competition would hold. Yet they have come together to form not just a cross-country team, but also a family.
The Jackson College women's cross-country team accomplished much this season, and the best is yet to come: they are heading for the NJCAA National Championship!
Team building came early for the Jets. Working together on group activities at camp, the young runners who had competed against one another in high school began to connect as college teammates. Throughout the season, they continued to gel as a team.
"You can definitely tell the difference between high school and college level, but we have all welcomed it openly. We've become like a family really fast; that's not something I would have ever anticipated," said Harmony Harpster, of Quincy, a graduate of Quincy High.
Alaysia Gutierrez of Concord agrees. "Definitely. I was on the same team for four years and I wasn't nearly as close with my teammates as I am with this team."
"Traveling to the meets as a team, too, has helped us to prepare together," said Madeline Humphreys, of Jackson, a Parma Western graduate.
Coach Serafin Llerena and assistant coach Andrea Ortell have coached the Jets men's and women's cross country teams for two years. They encourage their runners to do their best, and, that their best is enough.
"I was worried at the start of the season because when you hear college runner, you think best of the best. Then, we realize that we are at the level to compete with them," said Lydia Anuszkiewicz of Jackson, a graduate of Northwest High.
Runner Renee Osborne of Pittsford, a graduate of Pittsford High, came to Jackson College after earning multiple high school honors. She continues to fly in her first season as a Jet, adjusting to the competition early and earning a national ranking. "In many college races, they know how to compete," Osborne said. "In high school, some will just go out and run. But here in college, everybody knows how to race."
The team continues to get stronger. "We're working more on speed rather than distance and endurance now. The coaches are working on loosening up our legs, getting our legs to feel lighter when we run. That gives us more of an advantage when we race," Osborne said.
Preparing for Nationals
The team will travel to Albuquerque, New Mexico on Nov. 9 for the NJCAA National Championship.
"We're going to represent ourselves. It's about getting our name out there, letting people know we're still a program," Llerena said.
Being part of a winning team goes beyond meets and practices, Ortell said. "For these ladies, I want it to be something they will never forget. I want them to realize that we have something here that many people never get to do. And that's pretty great," she said.
With a team of freshmen, Llerena is already looking to the future. "I can't wait for next year!"