Johnson County Community College
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Cross Country - JCCC harriers set to embark on final competitive season

08/30/17

Cross Country - JCCC harriers set to embark on final competitive season

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. - The 2017 cross country season for Johnson County Community College gets underway this weekend when the women’s and men’s teams compete at the Maple Leaf Invitational at Baker University in Baldwin City, Kan. And while the teams are excited about the start of the season, they also know when the season is over in November, the program will no longer exist at JCCC

Last February, the college announced the cross country and track and field program will be eliminated after fielding teams for the previous 33 years. Prior to this season, Dave Burgess and Mike Bloemker were the only two coaches in the cross country program’s history. They combined to lead the women’s team to five national titles, 21 top 10 finishes, 11 region title and 20 conference championships. Individually, there has been one national champion, 23 All-Americans and 35 Coaches All-Americans. The men have posted 19 top 10 national finishes, won four region titles and 11 conference championships. Individually there have been six All-Americans and 21 Coaches All-Americans.

Bloemker resigned from his position after serving 19 years as the program’s leader. His wife, Katherine, will coach this final season. She previously served as the men’s head coach, but will oversee the women as well.

Former athletic director Carl Heinrich told the Campus Ledger in an interview April 11 that the decision to cut the programs was difficult but the other programs [at the college] would benefit from the discontinuance.

“Dr. Sopcich has always said he would rather have a smaller amount of program do well than try to piecemeal a lot of things together so I think that’s probably the fairest way to say why the programs got cut,” Heinrich said.

The women’s cross roster will consist of two returnees, and four freshmen, while men have five veterans and one freshmen running.  Both rosters will expand for the half marathon, each team adding one more runner. These two athletes exhausted their cross country eligibility, but still had one year remaining to compete in the half marathon.

Yulissa DelaTorre is the leading returner for the Lady Cavaliers. DalaTorre was the team’s MVP last season after placing fifth in the conference, seventh in the region and 47th at NJCAA Nationals. She capped the year by earning Coaches All-American at the NJCAA Half Marathon with an 18th place finish. On the track, she was an indoor all-conference performer in the 1,000-meters and earned NJCAA Coaches All-American in the 4x800 during the outdoor season.

Jessalyn Rivet-Tissot is another key returnee this season. She competed in all nine meets as a freshman and finished 22nd and 52nd respectively at the conference and region championships. On the track, Rivet-Tissot was indoor all-conference performer running a leg on the 4x800 team, and outdoors she earned all-conference in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

Coming back to run the half marathon is Emily Williams. She was an all-conference performer in 2015, and was a 2016 indoor conference champion and NJCAA Coaches All-American running a leg on the 4x800 relay.

The four freshmen for the Lady Cavaliers are Jacinta King of Brussels, Belgium; Mikayla Lisher of Lawrence, Kan.; Emma Stimatze of Macksville, Kan.; and Sophia Wetta of Tonganoxie, Kan. These four will have the opportunity to compete for one season at JCCC, then move on to another program at the end of the year if they still desire to compete.

“I look for Yulissa to be a leader again and to have a strong seasons and contend for All-America honors, and Jessalyn came back in great shape and is running well,” said Bloemker.  “How the women do as a team depends on the lower half of the order.”

On the men’s side, team MVP Kyle McRoberts is the top returnee. In his rookie campaign, McRoberts had three top 10 finishes, and three others in the top 20. He placed 17th and 30th respectively at the conference and region championships, was the team’s top finisher at nationals placing 46th and capped the year by earning NJCAA Coaches All-American with a 17th place finish at the NJCAA Half Marathon. On the track, McRoberts was the conference indoor champion in the 5,000-meters, and placed third in the 3,000-meters. Outdoors, he set a school record in the 3,000-meters, breaking the previous record by five seconds.

McRoberts twin brother Brendan also returns this season. He competed in six of the nine events last year but experienced an injury during the season that really limited his ability to run effectively. He placed 24th and 50th at the conference and region meets, and finished the year by posting his fasted 8k time of 28:1608 at nationals. During the indoor track season, McRoberts ran a leg on the distance medley relay team that placed 11th at nationals.

Souleymane Adam also competed in six of the nine meets last year and improved as the season progressed. Adam placed 13th and 25th respectively at the conference and region championships, and he too posted a personal-best time at nationals, finishing 103rd with a time of 27:35.20.

Sam Hengeli transferred to JCCC as semester and competed outdoors for the Cavaliers. However, last fall Hengeli competed in cross country for Barton Community College. He was Barton’s second-best runner at the West Jayhawk Conference and Region VI Championships, placing 25th and 49th respectively. He was the Cougars top runner in their first three meets of the season.

The veteran male returning to compete only in the half marathon is Cyrus Muema. He had eight top-10 finishes in his two cross country seasons, and earned all-conference honors running on the 4x800 both indoors and outdoors in 2016. He did not compete in track last year and will be eligible to compete in 2018.

The two newcomers for the men’s team are Ducan Gakuru of Eldoret, Kenya, and Trey Seaba of Olathe, Kan. Gakuru transferred to JCCC after competing for Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Mo., last year. He finished 84th at the MIAA Championships with a time of 28:15.3.  Seaba was a two-time 6A state qualifier and placed 34th at state his senior year.

“Our goal for the men is do the same or better than last year … finish in the top three in the region and top 10 at nationals,” Bloemker said.  “They have the ability to get that done. They are pretty tight nit bunch.”

“For both teams, we want to make a good statement and showing this final year and have a successful season.” Bloemker said. “Several of the athletes want to run next year somewhere, so that is motivating them going into the season.”

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For schedules, rosters, and other team information, go to www.jccc.edu/cavs.