By Alyssa Kerry
It was a record breaking season for the Statesmen cross country team with Jamal Boma achieving grounds that no other Statesmen Cross Country runner has been able to achieve.
After loses two-time national qualifier, Ochaung Akway, the Statesmen had their eyes set on getting some new recruits in the program. landing senior Jamal Boma, freshman Filmon Bayenes, freshman Mykael Holliman and freshman Terry Jackson. The Statesmen also had three letter-winner returners to start of the season.
For cross country the season prep begins in the summer, according to junior Zach Johnson “throughout the entire summer, we get in our base mileage which is comprised of easier runs at longer distances with no workouts. This allows us to handle the workouts when we get back during the school year.”
The cross country season began on September 2nd, at the Augustana Twilight. The Statesmen came in 21st out of 22 teams with 584 points. Leading the Statesmen was Jamal Boma in his debut for the squad placing 45th out of 228 competitors. Not far behind him was fellow senior Payton Busch, who was next in 166th. Junior Zack Johnson and junior Garrett Heckman were both in the top 200 coming in at 183rd and 189th.
Returner, junior Zack Johnson said, “this year, we had a new addition to the team, Jamal Boma, who proved to be our most valued runner. With a seasoned runner like him, our returners, and new runners, we were able to make a bit more noise this year.”
As a team, the squad had a rough time at the Grand View Invitational coming in fifth out of six teams with 110 points. Individually Boma topped the field coming in first out of the 58 runners on the 6K race with a time of 19:21.4. This was the first time for Penn since 2011 to receive an individual crown. Johnson came in with the next best time, coming in 25th place with a time of 22:01.4. Not far behind Johnson was Busch in 27th and Heckman in 31st at 22:23.6. Both Busch and Heckman were only seconds behind Johnson.
Following his title at the Grand View Invitational, Boma was awarded the Heart of America Athletic Conference Men’s Cross Country Runner of the Week. The first place finish earned him his first career honor. Not only was his time of 19:21.4 enough to earn him the Heart honor but it was also a record breaker at the 6K distance.
At the Brissman/Lundeen Invitational on September 23rd Jamal Boma paced the Statesmen once again, finishing fourth overall out of 292 competitors with a time of 26:09.6. This was the eighth-fastest time in school history and the best since 2003 in the
8K race. As a team they competed in the lower Gold tier and finished 16th out of 31 teams with 478 points. Following behind Boma was Garrett Heckman, who finished in 84th and Zack Johnson was in 103rd.
Following his performance at the Brissman/Lundeen Invitational Boma was named Heart of America Athletic Conference Cross Country Runner of the Week for the best finish in programs history. This was the second honor for Boma.
Once again Jamal Boma was able to record one of the best times in school history at the St. Ambrose Fighting Bee Invitational. After getting the eighth best time in the 8K race previously in the season, Boma went on to tie the second best time ever at 25:31, beating all 132 competitors in the process. As a team the Statesmen finished ninth out of 13 teams with 281 points. Following behind Boma was Payton Busch, who placed 38th, and Zack Johnson was in 72nd.
There was no stopping Jamal Boma, not only had he broke the records in the previous 8K races, but the NAIA Seminole Valley Stampede was no different. Boma was the first ever Statesmen to break the 25-minute mark in the 8K race. Placing third overall in the race out of 244 competitors. As a team the squad placed 19th out of 25 teams with Boma in the lead position for the Statesmen. The squad had six runners in the 200, with Payton Busch in 96th, Garrett Heckman was in 140th, Zack Johnson was in 158th, Terry Jackson ended up in 182nd and freshman Cameron Shade was in 190th.
For the third time this season, Jamal Boma claimed the Heart of America Athletic Conference Men’s Cross Country Runner of the Week for his record breaking performance at the NAIA Seminole Valley Stampede.
With such a long runner season, staying healthy is one of the most important factors for the runners. Johnson said, “our main obstacles were getting the back of our pack (fifth through seventh runners) to stay healthy and injury free. You see this a lot with the younger guys on the team because it is a learning process for them.”
November 5th was the Heart of America Athletic Conference Championship, the Statesmen placed sixth out of 13 teams with 180 points. Leading the squad was Boma, with yet another record being broken at the 8K race. Boma was the first runner a
cross the line in the 112-person contest. With the win, Boma qualified for the NAIA National Championship. Fellow senior Payton Busch had a strong finish to his career placing 16th, he was followed by junior Garrett Heckman who finished in 39th, junior Zack Johnson who finished his college career as well, crossed the line in 63rd, finishing off the varsity scoring was freshman Terry Jackson who finished in 80th.
Junior Zack Johnson said, “we improved greatly from the beginning, finishing close to last at our first meet to being one of the better teams in our conference.”
Boma won his fourth Heart of America Athletic Conference Men’s Cross Country Runner of the Week, after his top place performance during the Heart Championship.
On November 18th, for his excellence in the class room, junior Zack Johnson was honored with the NAIA Men’s Cross Country Scholar-Athlete. Johnson had a perfect GPA of a 4.0 and was one of 222 students to be awarded the Laurel.
Jamal Boma was the first ever Statesmen to race in the NAIA National Championship. Racing as an individual in the championship, Boma finished 13th out of 331 runners was a time of 24:54.8. The top 30 runners were named All-Americans. For Boma, this was a goal that started out at the beginning of the season, “my goal always to make it to National and do better” Boma said. After a record breaking season for Boma, it only seemed fit that he would end the season on such a high note.
When asked about the season, Boma said, “I didn’t run well like I would want it, but overall it is okay” going on to say that he was still “please with the result for now and being the first in school History for William Penn that’s something that everyone would dream of.”
Now that cross country season is over, a majority of the runners switch to indoor track. Johnson said, “It is similar training to cross country except we will do shorter intervals at a faster pace. This will continue till the end of the school year where we transition back to our base mileage.”