Cross country coach Jef Moody presided over a gathering of All-Americans on Monday afternoon at the Dempsey Student Center on the campus of Sandhills Community College.
Last Saturday at Stanley Park in Westfield, Mass., Daniel Taylor took first place at the NJCAA Division III Championship and the Flyers finished second as a team. Teammates Andrew Bowen, 13th place and Daniel Hagan 14th, earned honorable mention All-American honors with their top 15 finishes.
Led by Enya Dewars with a 52nd place finish, the Lady Flyers came in ninth in the field of 14 teams.
Harper College of Palatine, IL won the men’s title for the eighth year in a row and the Harper women took home their third straight title.
After finishing third as a team a year ago on the same course, the Flyer men had their sights set on the team title. Individually, their goals in terms of times in the 8K race became unrealistic because of the course conditions following heavy rains the day before.
“The weather played a huge role in everybody’s performance,” said Hagan who sat down with Moody and his fellow All-American teammates. “There were potholes and puddles everywhere. Having to look down can really slow you down.”
Bowen was in third place with about a mile and a half to go when he lost his footing and fell to the ground.
“I pretty much got up instantly and was able to get some of my speed back,” he said, “but seeing all the runners go past me kind of took the adrenalin away.”
Taylor earned All-American honors in the spring when he won both the 5,000 and 10,000 meter runs at the NJCAA Track and Field Championship. Although he already has his associate degree from Sandhills, he came back for another semester.
The Union Pines High School grad had some unfinished business to take care of after being the runner-up by 1.1 seconds at last year’s national meet. This time he won by 46 seconds over second place Mike Dowd of Rowan-Gloucester (NJ).
“My original plan was to stay with the top pack, but I took off with the lead and just kind of held it,” he said. “After mile three I really started to widen the gap. I got through the woods with about 600 yards to go and turned around and saw a big gap. It was kind of a surreal feeling. I knew I finally had it.”
Sophomores Taylor, Bowen, Hagan and Jordan Anneheim all finished higher than they did a year ago. Sophomore John Grimm and freshman Trace Fraley each finished in the top 36 out of the total of 176 runners. Freshman Caelen Burton took 72nd place.
The outcome of the women’s 5K race was impacted by a slip and fall by one of the leaders in the final mile.
“One of our girls was upset because she ran the same time as last year,” Moody said. “Last year it was sunny and nice, but this year it was treacherous.
“Going in I figured we could finish anywhere from fifth to 10th. We finished ninth. The girls gave it their all. I’m proud of them too.”
The Flyer ladies and men were conscious of being “auditioned” by coaches from four-year colleges that were in attendence. Taylor, Bowen and Hagan are among those that have aspirations to run elsewhere next fall. Taylor has to make a decision about his next stop in time for the winter semester.
“I know wherever I go the competition will be a few steps up so I’ll have to adjust and rise to the occasion,” he said.
As with the men’s team, the departure of sophomores Dewars, Yesica Upson, Sara Lindell, Izzabella McNeil, Keisha Schmitt, Emily Doorey and Claudette Smith means the Flyers’ coach will be splitting his time between getting the track and field team prepared for the spring and recruiting. Yesenia Chavez was the lone freshman in the lineup for the ladies on Saturday.
“I’m glad they’re leaving here being successful,” Moody said of the athletes. “Now I have to get on the road and replace the people that aren’t coming back. These guys and girls are my best recruiters. The plan is to reload and contend every year.”
Men’s Results – Top 5 teams – 1. Harper (IL) 38, 2. Sandhills 83, 3. Suffolk County (NY) 99, 4. Ocean City (NJ) 200, 5. Kellog (MI) 213; Sandhills individual results – 1. Daniel Taylor 26:32.37, 13. Andrew Bowen 28:04.93, 14. Daniel Hagan 28:06.85, 29. Trace Fraley 29:04.04, 32. John Grimm 29:09.68, 36. Jordan Anneheim 29:16.64, 72. Caelen Burton 30:41.34.
Women’s Results – Top 5 teams and Sandhills – 1. Harper 38, 2. Oxford Emory 89, 3. Suffolk County 98, 4. Fashion Institute 116, 5. Hudson Valley 126, 9. Sandhills 247; Sandhills individual results – 52. Enya Dewars 23:10.74, 66. Yesica Upson 24:25.21, 79. Sara Lindell 24:59.12, 81. Izzabella McNeil 25:02.95, 87. Yesenia Chavez 25:28.99, 102. Keisha Schmitt 27:00.56, 110. Emily Doorey 28:00.61.