There were 130 runners representing more than 15 schools in the NJCAA women's cross country national championship on the 5-kilometer course at Stanley Park in Westfield, Massachusetts on Nov. 7.
Matt French, coach of the top ranked Suffolk Community College team, knew his runners had to keep an eye on its main competitors.
"There may have been 130 runners out there," French said, "but it was kind of a duel race between us and Harper College and we were able to go out and have success."
That success earned the Sharks 64 team points, enough to capture the program's second national title in nine years. Harper (Illinois) finished second with 87.
"We went into the race thinking we had a chance," freshman Ryleigh Donegan, Suffolk's top finisher, said. "Nothing is guaranteed and the entire time we kept our game faces on and we knew what we had to do. We each had a plan and if things didn't go right we were ready to react."
Donegan, an all-American and Northeast Region Athlete of the Year, finished fifth overall in a time of 19:26.7. She was followed by teammate Leana Wiebelt, who finished in a time of 19:35.9.
"This year we had a lot more depth to our team," Wiebelt said. "Our fifth girl [Ashlee Rommeney] made a huge difference for us."
Kayla Clements finished 11th overall in 20:06.3, Menely Genao was 19th in 20:33.3 and Rommeney was 37th in a time of 21:24.2.
"With every team you try to build around each of the different components," French said. "Adding Ryleigh was perfect because she became our number one runner. With the times she had in high school we knew she would be."
"To win it this year was amazing and mind blowing," Wiebelt said. "It's great to go into the record books."