What drives someone to choose to train, tackle longer distances, run on changing terrain and expose themselves to all types of weather elements? What drives an individual to run and compete at the collegiate level, choosing to run at HCC? What is it like to compete as an individual, in a sport that also is scored as a team event? How does dedication to cross country competition relate to life after HCC?
As we celebrate the 2019 Hawks Men's Cross Country team's Region XX title and the 2019 Hawk Women's Cross Country individual Region XX crown winner, Khelsa Connolly's, bids to the NJCAA DI Cross Country Championships, in Albuquerque, NM, and Veteran's Day, we turn back time to November 2003, when the Hawks earned 4th place at the NJCAA X-C Championships in Lawrence, KS to find answers to these questions and more.
Mark Eissens, a 2003 All-Region XX Cross Country team member and 2003 NJCAA Academic All American, reflects on what drew him to attend HCC, what made him successful as a student/athlete, how running cross country at HCC prepared him for what was to follow, and how things fit together for the Hawks to place 4th in the NJCAA X-C Championships in November 2003.
In 2003, instead of returning home to Sterling, IL, and after leaving active duty in the Army, Mark enrolled in HCC, along with joining the Maryland National Guard. He was later deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom during the track season of 2005, but his time spent at HCC and running for the Hawks shaped his life.
While pursuing his goal to run Cross Country, after leaving active duty in 2003, Mark met HCC coaches Rich Secrest, (HCC alum,) Jason Gish, and Brian Ferrari. He credits all of these men with possessing a tremendous knowledge of running, a strong passion for the sport, and the ability to relate these qualities to their teams, preparing them for regular season competition, the national stage, and for life in general.
The 2003 men's team, Ryan Davis, Justin Myers, Jeremy Everitts, Tom Devine, Mark Eissens, Bobby Boston, Ryan Waldt, and Ed Rosporski, coached by head coach, Rich Secrest and assistant coach, Jason Gish, decisively won their second straight Region XX title on October 26, 2003, scoring 18 points, topping second place Anne Arundel CC by 20. Ryan Davis led the Hawks, winning the 8 kilometer race, defending his individual crown, in 28 minutes, 1 second. Bobby Boston took second in 28:16, Mark Eissens took 4th (28:30,) Ed Rosporski 5th (28:40,) Tom Devine 7th (29:45,) and Jeremy Everitts 8th (30:50.)
The men took the Region XX momentum and hit the NJCAA X-C Championship held at Rim Rock Farm in Lawrence, KS in full stride. The course, considered one of the toughest in the NCAA, consisted of 5 miles of rolling terrain. Bobby Boston finished this race in 10th place (26:53) earning All American honors. HCC's next four runners were separated by only 21 seconds, Tom Devine (23rd, 27:43,) Ryan Davis (25th, 27:47,) Mark Eissens (27th , 27:57,) and Ed Rosporski (29th , 28:04) earning the Hawks 4th place finish. Low score and first place was won by Central Arizona, scoring 39 points. HCC's total points for the 4th place finish was 99. Coaches Rich Secrest and Jason Gish advised the squad to meet the caliber of competition in the front of the pack head-on, to not lose contact early. The team rose to the call, running their own races, while pulling together support and strength, pushing one another on throughout the race.
Three women ran as Hawks on the 2003 team, Brittany Kershner, Lindsay Zerance and Nikki Centofonti. Centofonti (23:52) and Kershner (24:20) finished second and third, respectively, in the Region XX meet, qualifying them for nationals. Both competed well, setting personal bests in Kansas, with Nikki Centofonti finishing 62nd (21:49) and Brittany Kershner finishing 80th (22:15.)
The choice to stay in the Hagerstown area and attend and run cross country for HCC placed Mark Eissens on a path leading him to his present life. He met his future wife on the first day of HCC cross country practice in 2003, attended the HCC Radiology program, and is now employed as an Interventional Cardiology Radiographer for Meritus Hospital. He has remained in Washington County as resident of Williamsport, MD, has two children, and continues to foster and enjoy friendships he made as a student/athlete/military service member starting in 2003. "A huge bonus was learning about the rich running history in Washington County," commented Eissens. "Most people don't realize how many Olympic Trial Qualifiers and Olympians have trained here and in the surrounding area. Washington County is truly a great place to train."
The Hawks men's team returned to the national stage in 2008, and again in 2009, under new coaching with Brian Ferrari as head coach, assistant coach Jaime Dick, and Eissens as a volunteer coach. Both teams were rich in local talent, many of whom graduated from Washington County and surrounding Pennsylvania schools.
The 2008 team, Dustin Adams, Wes Brutcher, Corey Centofonti, Justin Cole, Wade Miller, Michael Podlesnik, Ryan Shifler and Jeremiah Wilt won the Region XX meet, qualifying as a team for the NJCAA DI meet in Spartansburg, SC. HCC placed 17th out of 33 teams with Corey Centofonti leading the Hawks at 49th (26:42,) followed by Justin Cole 83rd (27:26,) Dustin Adams 103rd (27:48,) Mike Podlesnik (28:04,) Wade Miller 118th (28:07,) Ryan Shifler 129th (28:26,) and Jeremiah Wilt 134th (28:28.)
2008 Hawk, Jordan Atha, running for the women's team, won the Region XX women's crown, and ran the 5K course in Spartansburg in 19 minutes, 41 seconds, placing 33rd overall, and was named Coaches' All-American.
In 2009, the HCC men returned to the NJCAA DI Championships, once again, after dominating the Region XX championship, taking 5 of the 6 top spots, and scoring a total of 16 points. Howard, the only other team competing in the field ended the race with a total of 45. The national meet, held in Peoria, IL, set up for the Hawks to place 13th out of 35 teams. First for the Hawks was Jerimiah Wilt, finishing the 8K course 30th, in 26 minutes, 33 seconds, and was selected as a Coaches' All-American. Corey Centofonti placed 48th (27:05,) Wade Miller 64th (27:28,) Brandon Mauck 103rd (28:05,) Rio Ferrario 152nd (28:57,) Nathaniel Clark 162nd (29:06,) and D.J. Watson 221st (30:55.)
What drives someone to choose to train and run cross country? That appears to be an individual trait instilled in those who strive for a "personal best." What can be said is HCC has and continues to offer a great environment for runners to succeed and grow their skills and passion, academically, competitively, and for years following their time spent as a Hawk.