Moraine Valley Community College || Athletics || Mens' Cross Country

Men's Cross Country

November 25, 2013

Cyclones highlight season at nationals

Despite having only two runners with college cross country experience, the 2013 men’s team acquitted themselves well: third place in conference, three national qualifiers and individual honors.

First-year runner Dawid Palac (Reavis) led the charge, finishing second at the Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference championship, being selected to the All-Conference and All-NJCAA Region IV Division first teams, and qualifying for the NJCAA championship. First-year runner Brandon Ceh (Evergreen Park) was selected to the All-Region third team and qualified for the national race, and second-year Thomas Cira (Brother Rice), who was an All-Conference second-team selection, was the third Cyclone to compete in the national championship. It was his second consecutive trip to nationals.

“Dawid, Brandon and Thomas had really good seasons. We were especially pleased for Thomas that he was able to qualify again for the ‘Big Race.’ Dawid was a stalwart for us this year, and we will rely on his leadership and experience next year. Brandon also gained a lot from this season. We will count on him as well. I expect big things from both of them,” said their coach Mark Horstmeyer, who completed his 14th year at the helm.

The 2014 season looks to be bright because of the number of returnees from this year’s team. Their experience in bridging the gap between high school and college will suit them well and the team’s future, according to Horstmeyer. “The guys learned a lot this year, and unfortunately for many of them they had to not only battle their opponents but also injuries and illness. I really felt bad for them.”

Expected to contribute a lot toward a run at championships next fall will be Anton Thauer (St. Rita); Evergreen Park grads Anthony and Justin Briante and Larry Byrd; Jesus Rojas and Alejandro Montes (both Eisenhower products); and Ryan Dovgin (Andrew). Carthage College transfer Zach Butera (Sandburg) was the other Cyclone with experience, but injuries prevented him from being at his best. Horstmeyer praised their work ethic. “They were committed and dedicated to improving. They were a great group of guys to work with. We expect big things from them next year, and we think they will deliver,” he said.


November 11, 2013

Cyclones run strong at national championship

Dawid Palac, Brandon Ceh and Thomas Cira battled windy conditions Nov. 9 at the NJCAA Division I national championship in Fort Dodge, Iowa, and turned in a solid performance.

Palac finished 123rd in 28:08, Ceh in 202nd in 29:38 and Cira 226th in 30:07 over the rolling, wind-swept 8K course on the Lakeside Municipal Golf Course. There were 298 finishers.

“Conditions were tough—gusty winds on a wide-open, rolling course—but the guys persevered, and I’m very proud of their achievement. They finished their season on a strong note,” said coach Mark Horstmeyer.

“This was Thomas’ last junior college race, and it’s great place to finish his two-year career, at the national championship. We’re really pleased with his accomplishment—a two-time national qualifier. It’s a lifetime experience, and well deserved,” his coach said.

Horstmeyer also had high praise for Palac and Ceh. “These are first-year runners who gained a lot of experience this year. Their effort at nationals was exemplary. We couldn’t be happier for them. They now have something they will always remember, and it will be a strong motivator for them to work hard over the off-season so they can qualify again,” he said.

“It was a good day for all three of them and a good day for the Moraine Valley Cyclones. They represented their school very well,” Horstmeyer said.


November 4, 2013

Three Cyclones advance to the national championship

Dawid Palac, Brandon Ceh and Thomas Cira extended their season Nov. 2 at the Region IV Division I Championship and will toe the starting line this Saturday at the NJCAA national championship in Fort Dodge, Iowa.

Led by All-Region selectees Palac and Ceh, the Cyclones finished in fourth place in the seven-team race. Palac placed fifth in 27:22, Ceh was 15th in 28:36, and Cira was 17th in 28:42. This will be Cira’s second trip to nationals. Zach Butera finished 27th in 29:34 followed by Anton Thauer (31st, 29:54), Anthony Briante (33rd, 29:59), Justin Briante (35th, 30:16), Ryan Dovgin (49th, 31:58), Larry Byrd (53rd, 32:37), Alejandro Montes (54th, 32:58), and Jesus Rojas (62nd, 34:50). There were 63 runners who crossed the finishing line of the 8K course at Community Park in Channahon.

“Congratulations to Dawid, Brandon and Thomas for their achievement. We’re really proud of them,” said coach Mark Horstmeyer. “There were a lot of top runners in the field, and they had to be close to their best to qualify for the national championship. Thomas came on strong at the finish—he really wanted to qualify again, and his late charge showed his determination. Brandon has been battling illness and a nagging injury, but he just ignored all of the distractions for the past few weeks, and just gutted it out. Dawid ran his fastest race of the season, and his focus was evident throughout the race. It will be a lot of fun to watch them mix it up on Saturday at Iowa Central College.

“I know for some of the guys it was not the finish they wanted, but I can’t fault their effort. Many of them have had to deal with injuries and medical issues the last six weeks or so of the season. We’re a young team with only two sophomores. So the first-year guys gained a lot of experience, not only at regionals but also throughout the season. They now know what they have to do during the long layoff to prepare for the 2014 season. I’m really looking forward to seeing their progress come August 1, 2014,” Horstmeyer added.


October 28, 2013

Cyclones show grit in taking third at conference

Led by Dawid Palac’s runner-up finish, the Cyclones placed third at the Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference championship on Oct. 26 at Pioneer Woods Forest Preserve in Willow Springs.

College of Lake County gained their first title since 2000, and Morton College claimed second place. Waubonsee Community College finished fourth, and Oakton Community College rounded out the team scoring in fifth.

Palac sped across the line in 27:46 on the hilly, demanding 8K course, and his second-place finish earned him a spot on the All-Conference team. Thomas Cira’s 10th place finish (29:06) also earned him All-Conference honors. He was followed by Brandon Ceh (17th, 30:02), Anton Thauer (19th, 30:21), Zach Butera (21st, 30:31), Anthony Briante (23rd, 30:34), Justin Briante (25th, 31:31), Alejandro Montes (29th, 32:02), and Larry Byrd (35th, 33:20).

“Dawid had his best performance of the season, and it certainly came at the right time. We are really pleased with his second-place showing. The course is very demanding, and you had to run a smart race. Dawid did just that. Thomas really came on and got that spot on the All-Conference team. We couldn’t be happier for him. It was a nice job by both guys,” said coach Mark Horstmeyer. “We also have to give some props to the other guys. We’re not particularly healthy, and they have had to fight through some adversity. Saturday they showed what they’re made of. It was a solid finish for them.”

The Cyclones now get ready for the NJCAA Region IV Division I championship on Saturday at Community Park in Channahon. “They will have to be at their best and simply focus on what they need to accomplish. This will be a fast race, but they showed their grit on hilly terrain at conference, so I know they will be up to the task,” their coach said.


October 21, 2013

Cyclones turn in ‘best’ performance at UW-Oshkosh

In their final tune-up before the championship season begins on Oct. 26, the Cyclones took advantage of a very competitive field at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh’s Brooks Invitational on Oct. 19 to record their best times of the season. The “Running Cyclones,” the only community college in the field, finished 34th among 37 teams.

Dawid Palac once again led the way in 332nd place among 566 finishers in 27:55. Brandon Ceh was next in 387th in 28:29 followed by Thomas Cira (443rd, 29:13), Anthony Briante (502nd, 30:42), Justin Briante (503rd, 30:50), Alejandro Montes (516th, 31:14), and Larry Byrd (548th, 33:06).

“Most of the guys took advantage of good racing weather, a fast field and a fast course to turn in their best times so far. This is a tremendous race, and it gives our guys the experience to know what it’s like to compete against NCAA Division III-ranked teams as well as top NAIA teams from the Midwest. Most of the guys thought they could have done better, but this meet served its purpose—getting them ready for conference and regionals and hopefully nationals,” said coach Mark Horstmeyer.

The Cyclones now prepare this week to host the Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference championship on Saturday at Pioneer Wood Forest Preserve. “This is our new course, and we think it really is a ‘cross country’ course. It has hills and flats. It will challenge runners. We’re excited about Saturday,” he said.


October 14, 2013

Former Cyclone standouts qualify for Boston

Moraine Valley will be well represented at the Boston Marathon next spring after four former cross country standouts attained qualifying times at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on Oct. 13.

Kevin Deegan (2:54:46), Matt Swiatkowski (2:56:58), Dimitri Dimizas (3:03:42), and Shannon McInnis (3:14:22) gained the opportunity to compete in the prestigious Boston Marathon on April 21. All four runners were top performers for the Cyclones. Deegan (Brother Rice) helped lead the Cyclones to Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference and NJCAA Region IV titles in 2004. He also was the 2005 conference champion and All-Conference and All-Region runner in 2004 and 2005. He led his team to two straight national championship appearances.

Swiatkowski (Sandburg) also was named All-Conference and All-Region in 2002 and 2003 and qualified for the national championships both years.

Dimizas (Richards), assistant cross country coach at Moraine Valley, was named to two All-Region teams and one All-Conference team and was a two-time national qualifier.

McInnis (Andrew) helped her team win conference and regional titles and an appearance in the national championship in 2003. She returned the following year as an individual qualifier. She was named to All-Conference and All-Region teams in 2003 and 2004.


October 7, 2013

Cyclones battle for solid finish at Warrior Invite

Running conditions weren’t the best at Wisconsin Lutheran College’s Warrior Invitational in West Allis on Oct. 5, so the Cyclones took off their watches and just went for place, finishing 13th of 25 teams.

Dawid Palace led the assault with a 56th place finish among 234 finishers. Brandon Ceh was next in 97th, followed by Jesus Rojas (99th), Anton Thauer (110th), Thomas Cira (113th), Justin Briante (122nd), Alejandro Montes (152nd), and Larry Byrd (216th).

“Since this was a big race in terms of numbers and teams, we told the guys that we didn’t want them to wear watches but to just go out and compete and see what happens. The times didn’t matter—we knew because of the difficult course made even more challenging by the weather—that this would be a good opportunity to see what they could do by just getting in there and mixing it up,” said coach Mark Horstmeyer. “We liked how they finished.”

The Cyclones now take a week off from racing as their preparation begins for the championship season with a final tune-up on Oct. 19 at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh’s Brooks Invitational. “This race is a good way to end the regular season. It’s an extremely competitive field on a fast course. It’s a great experience for the kids and a lot of fun,” their coach said. “The extra week of training gives us a chance to get some of the guys healed up and the others to get a couple of extra hard workouts in.”


September 30, 2013

Cyclones stumble in first test of season

The Cyclones took a bit of a step backwards at the College of DuPage Invitational on Sept. 27 at St. James Farm in Warrenville where they finished 17th of 21 teams that included all three NCAA divisions, NAIA and NJCAA. It was truly a learning experience.

Brandon Ceh led the way with an 84th finish in 28:55, followed by Thomas Cira (113th, 29:55), Anton Thauer (137th, 30:45), Alejandro Montes (148th, 31:16), Justin Briante (151st, 31:37), Zach Butera (154th, 31:47), Ryan Dovgin (175th, 33:16), and Larry Byrd (195th, 35:44).

“The guys did not have a good day, and they know it. Sometimes a race like that is beneficial and can serve as a wake-up call because we’re heading quickly to the championship season. All of the conference teams and all but one Region IV team were in the field, so the guys gained some understanding of where they stand with a month to go. It’s now up to them to decide how to respond not only on Saturday at Wisconsin Lutheran, where they will be competing among 30 teams, but also from here on out. I expect that response to be very positive,” said coach Mark Horstmeyer.


September 23, 2013

Cyclones turn in good outing

Under ideal running conditions, the young Cyclones responded with their best outing of the season finishing 12th of 14 teams and gaining another leg of experience at Wheaton College’s Gil Dodds Invitational on Sept. 20 at St. James Farm in Warrenville.

Dawid Palac again led the Cyclones with a 114th place among 190 finishers in 28:32. Brandon Ceh was next (129th, 28:52), followed by Thomas Cira (141st, 29:20), Zach Butera (147th, 29:33), Jesus Rojas (149th, 29:37), Anton Thauer (159th, 30:17), Alejandro Montes (166th, 30:55), Justin Briante (172nd, 31:29), and Larry Byrd (189th, 35:50).

“The guys had a good morning—most of them lowered their times—and gained experience of racing against some really competitive teams. They still have a lot of work to do, but they definitely are heading in the right direction. We’re pleased with how they responded,” said coach Mark Horstmeyer. “Now they have to get ready to face even tougher competition on Friday. I think they’ll have some fun. It is expected to be warmer and the course will be crowded, especially in the woods. The guys will learn a lot about racing, and that’s what we want to get out of this meet.”


September 16, 2013

Cyclones show improvement

With the weather cooperating, the Cyclones raced to a 16th place finish at Illinois Intercollegiates on Sept. 13 hosted by Olivet Nazarene University on its Aspen Ridge course. There were 18 teams in the highly competitive field.

Dawid Palac, running in his first race of the season, led the Cyclones across the finish line with a 135th place in 29:09. Brandon Ceh was next in 144th in 29:39 followed by Thomas Cira in 148th in 29:52, Anthony Briante in 149th in 29:53, Alejandro Montes in 156th in 30:26, Anton Thauer in 161st in 30:48, Justin Briante in 165th in 31:10, and Jesus Rojas in 176th in 32:22. There were 189 finishers in the race.

“I want to thank Coach Mike McDowell and Olivet Nazarene for making sure Illinois Intercollegiates would not disappear after Illinois State University said it was no longer hosting it,” said coach Mark Horstmeyer. “Our guys were much improved over the previous week, and we see progress. We still have a few guys banged up or just getting back to being able to race. We are still learning, and we learned some more lessons Friday. They are starting to understand what’s needed to compete at this level and that will help on Saturday at Wheaton College.”


September 9, 2013

Young Cyclones finally start 2013 season

After getting washed out a week earlier, the Cyclones returned to action on Sept. 6 at Olivet Nazarene University’s Midwest Classic finishing ninth of 12 teams in their first full-fledged outing of the year.

Anthony Briante was the top finisher, placing 74th in 29:57 among 128 finishers in steamy conditions over the 8K course at Aspen Ridge Golf Course. He was followed by Thomas Cira (84th, 30:36), Brandon Ceh (94th, 32:01), Anton Thauer (96th, 32:03), Ryan Dovgin (102nd, 32:35), Alejandro Montes (111th, 33:28), Jesus Rojas (113th, 33:50), and Justin Briante (122nd, 37:20).

“For all but one of the guys this was their first college race at the 8K distance,” said coach Mark Horstmeyer. “It was not the result we were expecting nor what they wanted to achieve, but they had a positive finish being the only two-year college at the meet. That’s something to build on. We’re young, and it was a learning experience. We’re back at Olivet on Friday for Illinois Intercollegiates, where there will be more teams and stronger teams. I expect their learning curve to continue upwards.”


September 3, 2013

Storm blows Cyclones off course

The Cyclones tried to get their 2013 season off the ground at the Elmhurst College Early Bird Invitational on Aug. 30, but Mother Nature had other plans. About seven minutes into the 6K race at Eldridge Park, a storm blew in, and the race was stopped.

“We knew the storm was coming, but we were hoping that it would hold off until we could get the race in,” said coach Mark Horstmeyer. “And it was looking like we might. But all of sudden the wind picked up significantly and thunder and lightning started booming and flashing, and it was time to get the kids off the course.”

Although the Cyclones ran an abbreviated race—they completed a little over a mile—Horstmeyer was pleased with what they accomplished. For all but two of the runners, this was their first collegiate race, and “the guys did what we asked them to do. We wanted them to run a controlled first mile and stay together. It was really neat to see the pack.”

The Cyclones travel to Olivet Nazarene University’s Midwest Classic on Friday, and they’re hoping for dry weather. “Even though we only got a mile or so done at Elmhurst, the guys are really excited with the result and want to add onto that in their first 8K. We’re excited to see what they can do for an additional four miles,” their coach said.


August 26, 2013

Cyclones’ expectations high with depth, experience

Despite returning only two runners from last year’s team, including a national qualifier, the Cyclones aren’t figuring on losing a step. They’re counting on gaining a few that could lead to titles down the road.

“This will be one of the deepest teams we have had at Moraine Valley in a long time,” said coach Mark Horstmeyer, who begins his 14th season at the helm. “The guys remind me a lot of our last two national championship qualifying teams.”

What those two teams had in common was a pack mentality, and Horstmeyer sees that as the Cyclones’ strength this year. “The guys coming out of high school all ran pretty similar times, and many of them ran against each other for several years so they’re familiar with each other. Even though they competed against each other in high school, they now have a common goal and are working together because they know that will produce success,” he said.

Returning from last year’s squad is Thomas Cira (Brother Rice), who competed in the NJCAA Division I championship last November at Rend Lake College, Ina, Ill. “We expect big things from Thomas this year, but it’s nothing he can’t shoulder. He wants to improve, and his experience from racing at the college level a year ago will be one of his assets,” Horstmeyer said.

Also returning is Sergio Villarreal (St. Laurence), who had to battle injuries last year. “Sergio was hampered by leg issues, and we hope he can stay healthy this year,” his coach said.

Leading the new group is Zach Butera (Sandburg/Carthage College), who was a solid runner for the Carthage cross country team. “He has high expectations for himself as do we. He has set the bar high, and he has the confidence to leap over it. We also are looking to him for leadership as he has been through the cross country wars,” Horstmeyer said.

Big things are also expected from Dawid Palac (Reavis), Alejandro Montes and Jesus Rojas (both Eisenhower), Anthony and Justin Briante (both Evergreen Park), Brandon Ceh (Evergreen Park), Ryan Dovgin (Andrew), and Anton Thauer (St. Rita).

“All of these guys are experienced high school runners and understand what it takes to be successful. Once they make the transition to college racing, they will be a force. We’re putting high expectations on them, and we have every reason to believe they’ll respond,” he said.

“Dawid was Reavis’ top distance runner last year, and there is a reason for that—his work ethic,” Horstmeyer said. “He really wants to improve and that’s a main ingredient for success. We really like what he’s doing for us. Jesus and Alejandro were top contributors for Eisenhower’s 17-0 cross country regular season, second place in conference and sectional qualifiers last fall. Jesus and Alejandro have the same ingredients—they work hard and they want to improve. We’re counting on them to really help us out. Ryan had a really good outdoor track season, and we’re expecting him to carry over that success to this fall. He’s been working hard in the off-season, so he already knows what he has to get done. Anton is really working hard to get into shape and shows great potential. We’ll need him now to gain race experience.”

Evergreen Park High School is well represented this fall. Ceh, who as a senior in 2012, teamed with Anthony Briante, who was a junior, to compete in the state outdoor track championship. “Their work ethic and their middle-distance speed will definitely be factors as they once again team up, but this time to help push the Cyclones to the next level,” Horstmeyer said. “Justin has shown that he wants to put in the time and make the effort to help and that will serve him, and us, well this season.

“All in all, we’re really excited about the season and for the guys to achieve a lot of success. We have a long ways to go, but I think the journey will be fun and rewarding,” their coach said.