By Jon Parton
The men’s and women’s cross country teams trained in triple degree temperatures three weeks before the school semester even started.
According to Head Coach Mike Bloemker, it is that level of dedication and stamina that has led the success of both teams.
“There isn’t any real secret,” he said. “You just get out there and train, train, train.”
This season marks 15 years for Bloemker as head coach for the cross country teams. During his time at the college, he has garnered a number of achievements for the programs, including two individual national champions.
Bloemker has won more half marathon national championships than any other coach. He was named the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Region VI Men’s Cross Country Coach of the Year in 1999 and 2004.
Both teams train together every day of the week. Bloemker said it was necessary in order to create competitive teams.
“We do a big long run on Sundays,” Bloemker said. “We’ll go anywhere from 12 to 20 miles, it just depends on the group.”
Last year, the Lady Cavaliers broke six school records and finished in the top five 18 times. The men’s team broke two stadium records and finished five times in the top five.
“Guys run a little bit more than the women,” Bloemker said. “Women, though, at this level out train any other team in the country. Overall, I think it’s one of the best teams we’ve ever had.”
Bloemker added that this year’s teams have a lot of potential.
“Right now, it looks like we have a really strong women’s team,” Bloemker said. “Our freshmen on the men’s side have come in and we’re really surprised with where they’re at.”
Angela Mancuso, sophomore on the women’s team, said she is optimistic about this year’s chances.
“There are always different personalities and that can be a challenge, but we all want the same thing,” Mancuso said. “We want to win.”
According to Bloemker, the race at Disney World is one the teams look forward to the most.
“Usually, you know, we compete well there,” Bloemker said. “Our guys were third there last year.”
Bloemker said it is the goal of each team to win at regionals. He thinks both teams have a good shot at making that happen.
“The guys I think, for sure, are top eight in the nation,” Bloemker said. “And the women are probably top five in national cross. Both sides will try to win the half marathon championship.”
James Bowlin, sophomore on the men’s team, said that the major challenges to face are health related.
“It’s basically staying away from injury,” Bowlin said. “Keep everyone together and stay focused.”
Contact Jon Parton, managing editor, at email@example.com.