In a season of adjustment due to COVID-19, the GMC cross country teams have excelled. This weekend, the men's and the women's teams travel to Fort Dodge, Iowa to compete in the NJCAA National Championship and attempt to bring home the program's first cross country NJCAA National Championship.
The Lady Running Bulldogs, led by freshman Nicquelette Fazekas (Dixon, Ill.), finished the year ranked number No. 3 in the country. The team is in a great position to create history and bring GMC its eighth overall national championship, and first ever in cross country.
"This is the strongest set of runners we have had here at GMC since I started coaching. Nicquelette has been fast all year, and while she missed the region championship as a precaution, the rest has served her well,” said head coach Rob Sherwood.
Fazekas is among the contenders for the individual title as a key component for the team title. Her classmate Paige White (McCrae, Ga.) has been equally impressive and after leading the team to the Region 17 Championship, appears to be in peak form at just the right time. The Bulldogs’ hopes for a national championship will be buoyed by strong runs from Treeaunna Whiting (San Antonio, Texas) , Madison Nimmons (Lexington, Ga.) and Vanessa Alvarez (Naples, Fla). The team is hoping for multiple season best races this weekend. Whiting is only the fourth female GMC runner to make a second trip to the NJCAA National Championship. Her experience will be invaluable to the team's success. Nimmons and Alverez will be making their first trips to the big race, but successful high school careers should calm the nerves.
The men's team has steadily climbed the ladder all year long and enter the National Championship ranked fourth in the country. They ran a great race at the region championship, and those results have enabled them to set their sights on the highest team finish ever at the national championships. The Bulldogs will send five freshman to Iowa, led by Heath McDonald (Bogart, Ga.). McDonald, who has led the team on the course all season, could post GMC's highest national finish if he runs well. Daniel Turnipseed (Blythwood, S.C.) will be right on his heels and has really come on late in the season. Jacob Cain (Brandon, Fla.), Jessie Booth (McDonough, Ga.) and Bo Meadors (Plymouth, Ind.) round out the Bulldogs’ lineup and have each proven they can deliver when it counts. Coach Sherwood is fired up about the possibilities for this group.
"This is a great set of runners and if things go their way we will leave Iowa having raised the bar for the GMC men's cross country team,” he said.
The NJCAA DIII National Championship will be held at Iowa Central in Fort Dodge, Iowa on Nov. 14. The forecast calls for it to be cold and wet.