The only place to read about Harper College from Harper College students VOLUME 50, ISSUE 2 – MAY 2018

How Coach Mac Kept Me on Track by Bryan Gamboa

Running was the only thing I knew how to do in high school. Cross country and track have taught me so much, and they are the reasons why I’m the person I am today. I was a kid who didn’t take school seriously; all that mattered to me was getting medals at the end of the week and getting college letters. I ended up realizing that school was important way too late in my high school career, but I believe that everything happens for a reason.

The past year and a half I have been tested and pushed to my limits. Coach Jim Macnider has given me an opportunity to run at the college level despite not being at my 100%. My senior year of high school, I had suffered a very painful injury. All of the muscle tissues in my heel were ripped on top of having plantar fasciitis which made it impossible to even walk. That didn’t stop me from running, and I paid the price for that because I had suffered a stress fracture on top of the previous injuries.  The next couple of months I knew I was going to live in the training room doing rehab and stretching.

I knew that running in college was out of the picture, which really got to me. One day in Math, my high school coach told me that a college was interested in me, and I was so track2.jpgshocked and so eager to know who it was. He built suspense when he was telling me who it was. He told me that he has been part of many national titles. It was coach Jim Macnider, and I had known him previously because of other meets in high school. I thought it was so cool that he was still interested in me and was willing to be patient with me. I had a lot of trust in Macnider because of all his accomplishments and past stories I have heard about him. I didn’t worry too much because I had a feeling that good things will happen once I started working with coach Mac and had all the support from my amazing teammates.

A great program starts with a great coach.  Every athlete knows that; it is proven at the collegiate level and also in the pros. The program at Harper starts with coach Jim Macnider. According to the Harper Hawks web site, Macnider is very well known in the whole state of Illinois. His resume is very impressive and should be highly respected due to his experience and the impact he has on all of his athletes. He started as a high school coach and put that school on the map by putting them in the national spotlight year in and year out.

Mac is a Harper alumni and is a very decorated runner due to his accomplishments. Macnider even coached my high school coach. I trusted my high school coach with my whole life; he was like a second father to me. They both had the same philosophy, which is an important factor. Coach Mac has experience of winning and bringing multiple championships to his programs. He has an upward trend at Harper with bringing home trophies the past couple years. I knew some familiar faces on the team from past meets. I was excited to slowly get back into it and grind with these guys.

As a competitor, you are never satisfied until you reach your goal, and even then, there is still room for improvement. At the end of season, it is so satisfying reading an article saying you have won a national championship, according to, Harper College won its sixth straight national title on the men’s side in 2016.

At this point, Coach Mac could start to lose track of how many titles he has won. Ryan Ziolkowski was the top runner that day and had earned third place at the national meet. Alan Douglas, who didn’t finish too far from Ryan, earned sixth place which put two Harper College runners in the top 10! Our team really got it rolling towards the end of the season where it really matters most. I wasn’t able to run a healthy season all year, but it was a fun ride seeing my teammates work day in and day out. It was such an up and down season because of all the injuries the team had to deal with; other guys on the team had to deal with little injuries here and there like tendonitis. Alan had started battling tendonitis towards the end of the year but still pushed through. The rest of the guys started to get banged up due to a long season, but at the end of week, the guys were ready to go out and compete. Running is a yearlong sport, so it gave me some time to keep working on getting better so I could line up next to my teammates.


Coach Macnider and members of the Harper College Cross Country team

Harper college is known for having success in both the cross country and track and field teams. We also hold ourselves accountable in the classroom and having a good team GPA. Although it is a little more difficult to win the national championship for track because it involves a lot of events, the team is improving year by year. I know sometimes competing for Harper is not the same for running for a big school, but a student can really grow as a person and as a runner from just learning from coach Macnider. I have learned a lot from him, and he has drilled it in my head to keep my head up and attack a new day to get better. This team has made the whole journey worth it by winning a championship, and the memories that I will never forget have been just as incredible.

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