By Karen Perez
The Cross Country Dukes of Cumberland County College have returned from a successful season as the 2006 Garden State Athletic Conference Champions and the Region 19 Champions. The season started in September with 25 wins and only 11 loses. Not one of these losses was to a junior college. They are currently ranked 7th in the nation and NJCAA Divison III. They compete as close as Vineland and go as far as Pennsylvania. The Dukes are “a team of champions.”-who said this?
Coach Jim Marketto founded the Cross Country and Track and Field programs in 2002. The Dukes could not have asked for a better coach. Coach Marketto is a true athlete that instills trust and honor to his team. Coach Marketto said that the summer practices proved to be hot days filled with intense workouts. Yet, the team took the time to enjoy the peace in a sunset, on a Sunday evening, during a practice at Parvins State Park. Coach Marketto stated, “Bonding is important when trusting a teammate to win a meet.” Marketto feels that the cross-country team renews the importance of the student-athlete, which keeps them coming back. Marketto said that the goal of The Dukes is to create tradition of excellence and build those memories that will carry beyond the track and into the real world.
Marketto wants the focus for the program to keep the window of opportunity open for students on campus to continue participating and to be successful in all that the students do. It would be an even greater opportunity if a student could win a championship. The Dukes team has grown to 18 members total, including 6 returning students. When asked what he tells his athletes to motivate them Marketto responded, “…you have to get better or you will be beaten. Never be satisfied with the status quo.” The returning sophomores that helped the team gain the Championship are Pierre Chaniz-Rico, Dan Griner, Tom McDermott, Jeremy Ross, David Stone, and the leading lady Desiree Lara. Coach Marketto has his eye on the 12 new runners that he hopes will keeps the tradition of winning on track. They have run hundreds of miles over the summer, just in training for the upcoming year. The Dukes are looking forward to seeing their hard work and perseverance pay off.
The Dukes hope to regain their title of Garden Sate Athletic Conference Champs and Region 19 Champs in 2007. They have a great leading runner, Jamar Mack from Bridgeton, who has broken the school record each of the last two times he has ran. They also have Desiree Lara who has proven to be a natural track athlete. She only began running a year ago with no previous track experience and has made it to the top leading lady of the Dukes track team. Coach Marketto drives these athletes to set goals, make their plans and achieve their dreams. He has stated, “Right now you are the best. You have a bull’s eye on your back… you have to get better. Keep moving up.” According to their record, the Dukes will not have a problem moving anywhere, especially across the finish line.
By Karen Perez