Experienced ACC cross country team poised for success
ALPENA — Continued growth and success is what the Alpena Community College cross country team has its sights set on this season.
Entering his ninth year as head coach, Mark Jacobs has built a juggernaut of a program, developing student-athletes on the field and of course, inside the classroom.
Jacobs has once again put together another talented group that will flourish this season.
This group of Lumberjacks returns six of eight runners from a season ago and will be led by a trio of three-year runners including captain John Siegert (Ludington).
Siegert was not only the top runner for ACC last year, but one of the top runners in the conference and in the region as he finished as an all-Conference and all-region selection, finishing 10th in the region.
Duncan Ross (Rogers City) is another three-year runner and captain for ACC and Musa Kabbah (Liberia, Africa) is the third three-year returner for the Lumberjacks.
Along with a pair of experienced captains and a trio of three-year returners, Jacobs has the luxury of having an assistant coach for the first time since taking over the program in former Alpena and Cleary University runner, Mikayla Oliver.
“This is a phenomenal group of guys. One of the highlights is I have a phenomenal assistant coach as well for the first time since I’ve been coaching this program. Mikayla (Oliver) is going to make a huge difference and is an absolute perfect addition as she understands running, understands me and the culture that I continue to build at ACC,” Jacobs said. “One of the positives of this team is, due to COVID last year, my runners gained an extra year of eligibility, so I have three, three-year guys which is great.”
Roni Demirkol (Istanbul, Turkey), Teddy Peters (Onaway), Connor Bagnell (Memphis) and Natanael Macean (Haiti) make up the rest of the Lumberjack roster.
“This is a great group of guys who get it, know what’s going on and know what is expected of them. It’s an easy transition from last year to this year,” Jacobs said. “Our culture here is academics, hard work, improvement and family. These guys are very close and that’s the culture that we’ve built here at ACC.”
Part of that culture is continued improvement during competition, the other is to continue being the best inside the classroom.
ACC was number one in the nation academically last year, to go along with its unprecedented six years in a row as an academic all-American team. What started off as a goal inside the classroom has now become an expectation as this year would mark the seventh consecutive year, Jacobs’ program has an academic all-American team.
“That’s just the expectation and the culture now so this will be the seventh year in a row that we are academic all-Americans. Overall, in the big picture, we’re going to make them better runners, but the main goal is to make them better men, better members of society and I’m just so proud of guys from year one to now and what they’ve done to contribute to making this program what it is and what it will continue to be. Alpena Community College has so many great avenues for help and preparation academically and these young men will always remember the life lessons and if I can continue to help with their success and growth and athletically and academically, then that is a huge win.”
Siegert will be Alpena’s number one guy this year after a stellar campaign a year ago. Ross is aware of the opportunity he has with his third year and is determined to improve on a successful second year. Bagnell and Peters will also be relied on to have strong seasons and those four will likely be among the top on the team as Kabba, Demirkol, and Macean provide plenty of ability to what should once again be an improved Lumberjack group.
“We’re going to be solid. Our goal is to finish in the top half of the conference and if we stay injury free, I think we’ll have a really good year,” Jacobs said. “We’re in a good spot. We’re excited, it’s going to be fast and furious, but we’ve worked hard and we’re looking forward to big things.”