After 31 years of competing, the cross country team participated in their final meet on Saturday, Nov. 18.
Last spring, the college decided to discontinue the running programs in order to redistribute funds to other programs. Katherine Bloemker, cross country head coach, said the news came as a shock.
“It was really surprising, I’ll be honest,” Katherine said.
The program had been a part of Katherine’s life since 1998, the year her husband, Mike Bloemker, became a cross country coach for the college. For the Bloemkers, the team has been a crucial part of their lives for the past 19 years.
“When you’re married to a coach and then you become a coach also, it’s more than just a job,” Katherine said. “It becomes a part of your life and your family.”
After hearing the news, Mike said he wasn’t thrilled.
“It’s disappointing,” Mike said. “Statistically, it’s one of the most successful programs [here].”
In the past 32 seasons, the men’s team has run 28 times in the NJCAA championships, placing in the top 10 on 20 occasions. Of those 20 occasions, they’ve placed in the top five six times.
The women’s team has placed similarly. They’ve competed 30 times in the NJCAA championship and placed in the top 10 in 21 instances and nine times in the top five.
This past season, however, the men’s team finished 5th at regionals and 23rd at nationals. The women’s team finished 10th at regionals and 32nd at nationals. The program also finished with two all region and conference performers — Kyle McRoberts and Yulissa DelaTorre.
Overall, Katherine said she was pleased with the athletes performance this season.
“I was happy with how the season ended,” Katherine said. “I think we did well considering the circumstances with the program ending and such a small group.”
The program had trouble keeping recruits due to the ending of the program. This year, the men’s team only had seven runners, one of which was a freshmen. The women’s team also had seven runners but there was a more even split of four freshmen and three sophomores. This is the smallest the team’s have ever been.
“The athletes that we have [knew] that it’s the last year and that made it hard to keep recruits,” Katherine said. “We don’t have very many freshmen on the team because we had a few who had committed to come here and then when they found out that it wasn’t going to be around the full time they’d have been here, they decided to go to other places.”
A freshman runner, Trey Seaba, decided to continue running for the college despite the program ending.
“It’s [been] a bit stressful, not gonna lie,” Seaba said. “I have to figure out where exactly I’m gonna head next year and what I’m gonna do. But, I think it’s really fun to be a part of the last year. It’s kind of a closure of the team so that’s really cool.”
Overall, Katherine said she was proud of what the team has accomplished.
“It was really surreal at the post season meets realizing that this is the last time the Cavalier runners will toe the line,” Katherine said. “There will definitely be a hole on the starting lines at Region VI and at NJCAA cross country and half marathon next year.”