Winning a national championship at any level is hard enough to do -- which makes three straight all the more impressive.
That's what the Harper College men's cross country team accomplished over the weekend.
It was a steep challenge -- literally -- at the Northfield Mountain Recreation Center in Massachusetts on Saturday.
On terrain coach Jim Macnider called, "the most hilly course I've ever seen," Harper was up to the task. The Hawks scored 45 points to easily outdistance runner-up Ocean County College (84) and third-place SUNY-Delhi (117).
"We had so much more depth," said Harper's third-year coach.
Harper placed four runners in the top 10 individually on the tough 8-kilometer layout: Brennan Albuck (fourth, 28:02), Zach Stella (fifth, 28:07), Juan Barajas (eighth, 28:45) and Jhoan Lino (10th, 28:50). Each of them earned All-American honors.
Sebastian Ramirez provided the fifth score at 21st overall (18th in the team scoring), and Nick Modlin and Andrew Guibord also competed.
"It was a tough course," Macnider said. "None of them ran a bad race."
While the Hawks had plenty of talent this season, their coach was most pleased with their consistency and willingness to work toward a goal together.
"If I have teams with this type of chemistry," Macnider said, "we're going to be great."
Four of the team's top five finishers -- Albuck, Stella, Barajas and Ramirez -- are only freshmen and will be eligible to run again for the Hawks next season.
• In the women's race, Harper was able earn a sixth-place finish at nationals.
"It was a nice way to finish (the season)," said Macnider.
Despite struggles with injuries early in the season, the Hawks managed to finish strong. Stephanie Chaires led Harper with a 23rd-place finish.
"I thought this was her best race," Macnider said.