Matt Lustberg, Staff Writer
Noah Sanchez, Sports Editor
As the season nears its end, the Bergen Bulldogs Men’s Cross Country team prepares for its last meet of the season.
On Nov. 2, the team will travel to Holyoke Community College to compete for the last time this fall.
Looking back on the season, the success of this team could be attributed to many factors, whether it be athletes or coaches, this team was bound for success because everyone involved has a passion for the sport.
Head Coach Edgar Aguilar, a graduate from BCC and former member of the cross country team, who competed at nationals representing the Bulldogs during his time here as a student-athlete, suggests that the team has done so well this season due to a genuine love of the sport.
Athletic Director Jorge Hernandez believes that the team connects with Aguilar because of the experience that he has had in the past.
When the season began, they were not thinking of receiving awards, but rather training with the goal of being better than they were before.
The team was stacked with talent from top to bottom.
Several athletes have helped the team achieve one of its most successful seasons in recent history. Sophomore Ryan Scully, from Rochelle Park, New Jersey, has been the top runner for the Bulldogs this season.
Sophomore Jorge Dutan from Hackensack, New Jersey, is a transfer from Felician University and serves as the team’s No. 2 Runner and was a “big addition for the team and has made them stronger from last year,” according to Hernandez.
While the Bulldogs focus is always on what’s directly in front of them, there is always an eye to the future. The future is bright for the team with many of the athletes being freshmen and expected to return next year.
Expected to be leading the team next year are freshmen Bryce Merwin from Rockaway, New Jersey, along with Jordyn Harringan from Hillsdale, New Jersey, and Anthony Barrera from Ridgefield, New Jersey.
“They are good kids, everyone is strong and as long as there is a team we always have a chance,” said Hernandez.
The Bulldogs certainly have a lot to look forward to but what has made the current season such a thrilling ride has been the outstanding performances by the athletes.
Athletes such as Ryan Scully and Jorge Dutan have led the team to new heights, but along with them is an athlete who has received honors for his performance not only locally but nationally as well.
Sophomore Chris Benitez, from Maywood, New Jersey, received the National Male Athlete of The Week honors from U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) after running a personal best of 26:29.8 in the 8k race at The Highlander Tech Challenge hosted by NJIT on Oct. 5.
Benitez finished in 19th place out of a 277 runner field that was filled with tremendous talent.
Benitez finishing in 19th place helped the Bulldogs finish in 13th place as a school out of 31 other colleges and universities.
Benitez began running when he was a junior in high school, where he realized he had a gift for long-distance running.
Continuing his education and athletic career at BCC have Benitez further succeeding in his endeavors. “I just run as a hobby,” said Benitez, when asked about how it all started.
To some, it may seem trivial but this positive outlook on competition is largely the reason for the success of this team. This team loves to run and the awards are just the fruits of their labor.
Like any other team, this season was not just a jog in the park. Injuries early on in training put the team at a disadvantage for the season. Nonetheless, they persevered.
When Coach Aguilar was asked if there was anything he wanted the campus to know about the team, he responded, “Recruitment is always the biggest concern, everyone should try giving cross country a chance.”
The team has a welcoming atmosphere and for any students who enjoy running, the team welcomes any and all.