By JC MOORE
Jim Marketto, CCC’s first and current cross country coach, has seen his ups and downs with the program since it began in the fall of 2002. But one season that will be hard to surpass is the one that just finished in which his team reached the NJCAA National Championship Meet in Rhode Island and were nationally ranked as high as number two during the season. They finished the season ranked fifth nationally.
“It was a great feeling,” said Coach Marketto. “Anytime your program reaches that point where you’re recognized, it’s a special feeling.”
The ranking process is simple. Each week the team’s results are sent in to Hillendale, the team’s national newsletter, and the top ten teams are voted upon. The results then come out later that week. Winning both the Region XIX Championship Meet and the Northeast District Championship Meet helped the Dukes get recognized by other teams in the rankings.
“The rankings turned out pretty fair,” Coach Marketto said. “We could have finished as high as 2. It always feels great when the other coaches see your success. We moved up, which is nice. We were not ranked in the first poll, then we squeezed ourselves into about 9 or 10, and then we just kept moving up and up. You get a better feel for the teams and where they are as the season unwinds.”
The Dukes were lead by sophomores Jamar Mack and Cliff Shambry and freshman Levi Orr. Mack and Shambry both finished first for the team three times, while Orr finished first for the team twice. Mack, who was also a team captain, was named the Player of the Week following the Regions.
The program has come a long way since its inception. Even with a win at both Regions and Districts along with a fifth place national finish, Coach Marketto envisions much more success for Dukes cross country in the future.
“I really do believe that we’ve got enough talent in this area that if we get the commitment to go along with that talent, there could be a national championship in the near future. I really do.”
Coach Marketto hopes to see most of his cross country athletes staying in shape during the winter by joining the track club. Coaching the winter athletes will have to fill his competitive drive until next fall when he tries once again for the national championship.
“Our preseason goal was to win Regions, win Districts, and finish top 6 at Nationals,” said Coach Marketto. “That we accomplished. Next, we’re going for the national title.”