Rowan Men’s Cross Country wins first NJAC Championship in five years

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Rowan men's cross country holds their championship banner. - Photo / Rowan Athletics

It was a weekend to remember for the Rowan Men’s Cross Country team who has worked toward this all year. After learning from their mistakes earlier in the season, the Profs came out and ran a perfectly executed gameplan during the New Jersey Athletic Conference ( NJAC) Championship to take down the reigning The College of New Jersey (TCNJ). This is the team’s first NJAC victory since 2017.

“We’re just really proud of the guys,” Head Coach Dustin Dimit said. “We’ve been talking about how we want to race and we gave them a race plan and they executed it perfectly… it showed why, while it may be an individual sport, why and how it can be a team sport too with the way they ran together.”

Senior Justin Kelly led the way. After missing last season’s conference title meet due to an illness, Kelly placed first overall with a time of 25:09.

“It feels good,” Kelly said. “I really just wanted to do the best I could for the team so doing that feels really good…  It’s really a special feeling, we all wanted this all year and just to finally get it meant a lot. We were confident and knew what we needed to do and got the job done.”

Kelly’s victory marks him as the 27th Prof to win the individual title and the first since Daniel Henry in 2018.

“He really put himself out there and ran the race we had talked about and really executed well,” Coach Dimit said. “Obviously when you have a guy winning or anybody in the top five, let alone multiple guys in the top five, makes a big difference in the race and hopefully it will make a big difference for us at regionals as well.”

After hitting some midseason struggles, the team’s confidence did not waiver. Placing sixth at the Navy Invitational in September and placing tenth at the Mike Woods Invitational in early October were moments that the team overcame and learned from to reach this point.

“Every race we were happy with a lot of what happened,” Coach Dimit said. “You only get to race every two weeks and there’s not a lot of opportunities but that allows us to do better training… We really always focus on that so we see that progression throughout the year of people working really hard for this time of year and it all paid off with the result and how well they ran this weekend as individuals and as a group.”

After achieving one of their goals, the team now shifts its focus to the NCAA Division III Metro Regional meet where they currently rank third and hope for a top-two finish.

“We know it is going to be a tight battle there,” Coach Dimit said. “Haverford is really good, is the top-ranked team in the region. Swathmore [College] has a couple of front-runners that are pretty good but then our whole pack should be able to maybe beat their fourth and fifth runners. We think we’ll be somewhere in that 2-4 spot and hope it is on the higher end.”

With how tight the race will likely be, the Profs look to fall back on their own personal momentum to keep the team moving forward.

“You just want to be running your best and I think that really showed at conferences,” Kelly said. “I think everyone is kind of clicking right now which is probably what you want… I think everyone is in a good spot and is feeling really good about next week.”

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