After placing fifth at the NCAA Division III Metro Regional Championship meet, the Rowan men’s cross country team’s season came to an end.
A rollercoaster season saw the Profs walk away with their first New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) title since 2017 and senior Justin Kelly run away with the first NJAC individual title for Rowan since 2018.
The team also had the NJAC Coach of the Year in Head Coach Dustin Dimit, Runner of the Year in Kelly and Rookie of the Year in freshman Shane Vostenak. Kelly, Vostenak and sophomore Jacob Riley received All-Region honors.
“We’re happy with the season overall,” Coach Dimit said. “I think it was a year of a lot of growth for our guys because, as much as those seniors mean to us, we had a bunch of sophomores that weren’t in our top seven at the end of the year but they were at different points in the year so those are guys we’re gonna be relying on for the next couple years as they kind of step into those positions.”
The team will look a little different next year as they prepare to lose a few key seniors whose presence on the team will be missed.
“They’ve meant a lot in cross country,” Coach Dimit said. “They’ve gotten better each year they’ve been here and have been good leaders and definitely are guys we’re going to miss moving forward.”
Senior Noah Cziryak, who placed 43rd at regionals with a time of 27:13, is one of those leaders the team will miss, but he might actually miss them more than they miss him.
“I think the program has played a large part in my development,” Cziryak said. “Not only as an athlete but a person. I think it has helped me mature and it has helped me in more ways than I can even really put into words honestly.”
Cziryak was a transfer from Rowan College of South Jersey where he was a 2019 Academic All-American and on the 2018 and 2019 NJCAA Northeast First Team. However, there was one moment this season that meant more to him than any of his past successes.
“I would say probably winning the conference championship,” Cziryak said. “I think not only we deserve it but the coaches deserve it because they put in a lot of work.”
Winning the NJAC title in a year where they were not the favorite was only the start, as Coach Dimit and Cziryak both expect more from the younger guys as they move forward.
“I think Sean Hice or Giancarlo Vega. I think those two guys are really going to have a huge impact on the team not only as running fast but as leaders,” Cziryak said.
“Shane [Vostenak] obviously had a great season being Rookie of the Year and then All-Region, so that’s great to see him do that so I would say he was the one who stepped up the most, but we saw a lot of guys with that growth as well,” Dimit added.
This was a dream season for Cziryak, and one that he will not forget anytime soon.
“It felt really cool. It felt like that’s how I wanted to end it,” Cziryak said. “If I could end it anyway, it would be to win the conference title and bring something back to Rowan.”
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