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Jacobs pleased with Lumberjacks’ progress during 2020 season

Courtesy Photo The 2020 Alpena Community College cross country team from left to right is: front row: Juanita Sims, Musa Kabbah, Duncan Ross, Connor Bagnell and Runi Demirko; back row: coach Mark A. Jacobs, Yuki Nishibashi, Teddy Peters, Nate Robey and John Siegert.

It’s hard to keep the smile from Mark Jacobs face these days.

In the middle of a pandemic, the longtime Alpena Community College cross country coach is having a blast coaching another hard-working team that just keeps getting better.

“I couldn’t be happier. I believe this team will be my most improved team from the first week to the last week. Just another fantastic group of young men (and a) young lady,” Jacobs said. “I’m having a blast coaching them.”

Jacobs is always looking for his team to improve from meet to meet and, so far, the 2020 Lumberjacks have done just that. They turned in an impressive performance at Kirtland last week and are coming off another solid outing at Jackson.

As he settles in to his eighth year coaching ACC, Jacobs has a solid foundation in place and a group of runners that isn’t afraid of hard work.

At the head of ACC’s pack is sophomore John Siegert (Ludington) who is having a standout year after having to redshirt last season with a knee injury. In Jackson, Siegert turned in a top-10 finish and was seventh at Kirtland.

“He’s done very well,” Jacobs said. “He sets the standard.”

ACC’s other returners include Duncan Ross (Rogers City) and Nate Robey (Big Rapids) and Musa Kabbah (Liberia). Newcomers include Teddy Peters (Onaway), Connor Bagnell (Memphis), Runi Demirkol (Turkey) and Yuki Nishibashi–who ran last season at Alcona High School–and Juanita Sims (Alpena).

“She’s a great addition to our program. She works hard and does everything I ask,” Jacobs said of Sims.

Peters and Kabbah have established themselves among ACC’s top finishers this season, but Jacobs has been impressed with the work ethic of his entire team, especially in the light of the differences the 2020 season has brought.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, only coaches and runners are allowed at meets and teams are broken up into smaller heats during bigger meets. Runners can warm up without face coverings, but must wear face coverings at the starting line before a race begins and must put a face covering back on once they finish.

“It is different. It is unique. I can’t complain because we are running and there was a 50-50 chance this summer that we wouldn’t be running,” Jacobs said. “We have our goals, to improve every race and they have.”

A big part of that improvement is getting the freshmen runners up to speed on the rigors of college cross country, especially transitioning from running a high school 5K to a college 8K. Peters and Demirkol have been among those who have adjusted well and Jacobs said most of his runners hit their stride after getting a few races under belts.

“It’s a big adjustment,” Jacobs said. “It’s a learning curve. But typically, by the third or fourth meet they get it down.”

ACC’s schedule for the rest of the season includes races at Kirtland, Muskegon at the regional meet at Lansing.

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