Men’s Cross Country Flies to First Place at Nationals

The men’s cross country team won Nationals for the first time in College of DuPage history.

Claire Valenti, Sports Writer

The men’s cross country team won the NJCAA Division III Cross Country Championship in Westfield, Mass. for the first time in COD history on Nov 5. Out 19 junior college teams and a total of 157 runners, the Chaparrals clinched the win with a score of 42, a total time of 2:16:11 and an average time of 27:14.

“I’ve had the opportunity to coach at two different Olympic games and some World Championship games and stuff like that, ” head coach Robert Cervenka said. “But every season is an opportunity to work with another group of athletes, and that’s how I look at it. They buy into the program, try to develop the program and everybody wins in the long run.”

Freshman Nicholas Keeling finished the 8k race in first, with a time of 25:36.2, averaging a time of 5:09 per mile.

“It’s nice to know I can get first place; it’s a good feeling,” Keeling said. “A big thing is confidence, like going into it knowing you can do well. It was definitely an experience to spend a whole weekend away as a team, and to accomplish this with the team. You can definitely feel that we’ve grown closer.”

Throughout the cross-country season, Keeling was named National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) DIII Runner of the Year, as well as NJCAA DIII Athlete of the Week twice by the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA). Keeling said he’s most proud of reaching a new personal record.

“The best feeling was knowing I improved throughout the season,” Keeling said. “I think that’s the most rewarding thing. The external things are nice and all, to get placements and trophies, but it was really nice to know there was improvement throughout the season with my times.”

This is Keeling’s first year with COD, and Cervenka said he grew well over the course of the season.

“We had four athletes returning, a transfer, and we had two freshmen Nicholas was one of them,” Cervenka said. “He fit in right away with the seniors, and everyone started growing well together. Everyone bought in, everybody likes each other. They developed a camaraderie that helped develop us as a team.”

Freshman Randy Almarales transferred to COD from Elmhurst University, and this is his first season with the cross country team. Almarales finished the 8k 21st overall with a time of 28:06.5, averaging a time of 5:39.2 per mile.

“We work so well as a pack together that our whole top seven came in front of the third guy on the second-place team,” Almarales said. “We’ve worked together for so long, and we’ve worked so well together this whole season. Even if you take out our fourth and fifth [runners], and put in our sixth and seventh, we would still take the title because we were so packed together.”

Almarales was excited about the opportunity to run with the team; he started training with COD during the summer.

“When it comes to junior colleges, to put together as solid of a group as we have this season is so difficult because we’re so few in numbers,” Almarales said. “I’m so happy and proud of them, and it’s been really cool to have people to run with because it makes things so much better. Transitioning to coming here has been really easy to do and really fun.”

To learn more about the current cross country roster, visit for the team’s biographies and statistics.