Riverhawks men’s, women’s cross-country officially ends


Photo courtesy of AACC Athletics

AACC Athletics discontinues the men’s and women’s cross-country teams. Shown, runners Bailey Healy (left) and Paul Watson (right).

Dan Elson and Micah Smith

AACC Athletics has discontinued the men’s and women’s cross-country teams, the college announced on Monday.

The programs are ending for two reasons. First, the college has seen fewer students participating on cross-country teams. And few other community colleges in the region have cross-country teams.

“I never want to drop any sport necessarily, but it’s been a challenge for sure,” Athletic Director Duane Herr said. It was hard “just trying to fill a team, trying to get students here to build full teams. Across the region and nationally, we’ve seen numbers diminishing, and even the meets are more challenging to come by.” 

The men’s and women’s cross-country teams went to Georgia in November 2021 to compete in the National Junior College Athletic Association Region 20 Division III championship meet. The squads didn’t make it back this fall.

The men’s team carried six players this season while the women’s roster had five.

Herr said the move is “just something that we felt like, it was time to kind of take a step back and look at how we could potentially support the rest of the other programs that we have, with an opportunity to engage students that are interested in running activities.”

Women’s head cross-country coach Susan Noble, an adjunct health professor, said she struggled to recruit enough runners to sustain a squad. 

“Our region has shrunk,” Noble said. “There are [few] female runners, I’ve consistently been the only female coach and the only female coach with a full team.”

Noble added, “My biggest competition isn’t other schools; it’s employment [and] people have jobs.”

Runner Paul Watson, a second-year transfer studies student, said the move “sucks.”

“It’s one of those sports that not a lot of people are really interested in because mainly running [is] punishment for like 90% of sports,” Watson, a returner, said. “I feel like there’s a small majority who do enjoy it. It’s kind of sad.”

Runner Bailey Healy, a first-year transfer studies student, agreed.

“I think everyone’s just a little bit disappointed,” Healy said. “I didn’t know it was happening. I don’t know if anyone else knew. But it feels like it came out of nowhere at the same time. I get it. … It was a really small team so I understand. It’s just disappointing.”

Still, Healy plans to stay at AACC.

Men’s head cross-country coach Keith Bigelow, who works full-time in facilities, said the teams made the students’ lives better.

“We improved their situation,” Bigelow noted. “We got better student athletes. … They came in, we onboarded them and we tried to make them better runners and better students.”

Runner Noelle Somers, a first-year transfer studies student, said she enjoyed “the practices. Sometimes we’d always come and practice and sometimes we’d stay later and all [hang] out. … We’ll just mess around and stuff.”