Elijah Mendez (left) and Josh McCrickard (right) lead MCC XC

Thunder Cross Country Season Preview


Manhattan, KS - It’s going to take time, he knows, but if you’re a runner, a jogger … or even a brisk walker on the Manhattan Christian College campus, there’s a pretty good chance that RJ Robinson will be calling on you in the weeks, months, years to come.

Russell James Robinson is the cross country coach for the Thunder program, which today numbers six men and zero women. In the future he envisions a minimum of six to eight runners on each team.

“My goal is to relaunch our two programs,” said the second-year MCC cross country coach. “We’re going to recruit the students we have on campus, plus I want to get out and see more meets. We want to reach out and ask, ‘Do you want to be a part of this new adventure?’ “

Headlining this fall’s distance running adventure are Joshua McCrickard, a senior from Plainville, Kansas, plus Elijah Mendez, a junior from Topeka, Kansas.

Robinson not only heaps praise on both for their efforts of running the 8K, or five-mile distance, in just over 31 minutes, but also for their continued leadership after starting their MCC careers under coach Larry Olson as freshmen and sophomores.

“They were really close to Larry (who lost his life to cancer in April of 2014), so it’s been hard on them,” said Robinson. “They both made nationals last year, and have stuck with the program because it’s important to them that MCC have a cross country team. 

“They’re working hard to improve on their own times, but also doing a great job of cheering on, and supporting the four freshmen. They are passing on their passion for the sport,” continued Robinson. “I feel very blessed to work with individuals with such a great work ethic and individuals with such integrity. Together, we’re all working on a family atmosphere and a team of unity.”

With his own life, and with his cast of runners, he wants a unified unit that will live by the words of Ephesians 5:1 – Follow God’s example.

 “My goal is to do my best to be a Godly Man,” said the 31-year old Robinson. “I am constantly trying to imitate Christ in all that I do.”

For Robinson, the mission comes from Todd Agnew’s song, My Jesus, which begins:

Which Jesus do you follow?
Which Jesus do you serve?
If Ephesians says to imitate Christ
Why do you look so much like the world?

“To the best of my abilities, I want to imitate Christ as a coach, as a husband and as a father.

Ironically, Robinson’s 101 Man of God introduction came through cross country. 

Running for the Beatrice High School (Nebraska) cross country team as a freshman, he reflects, “That’s when I first learned about faith through my teammates. I mainly just listened. I didn’t add too many words to the conversation, but I became curious about it.” 

Robinson said his family didn’t attend church – “We weren’t even part of the holiday church crowd,” he quipped – but through his encouragement, he and his father started attending the First Baptist Church in Fairbury, Nebraska.

Through his four years of running, which included taking part in four Class B State Championships and winning one individual state title, Robinson found a “peacefulness” with his running runs. It was a “time for reflection,” and a time when “… my appreciation grew for the outdoors that God created.”

Within the pews, Robinson said a collection of adults put their arms of faith around him to help with his education in the Bible. 

Robinson would attend the University of Sioux Falls (South Dakota) and major in Elementary Education and Theology, plus ran cross country for two years before a leg injury cut his career short.

He then received a Master’s in Christian Arts from Truett Seminary, which is associated with Baylor University in Waco, Texas. That was followed by a five-year stint at nearby Woodway, Texas, where he and his wife, Julie, served as mentors at the First Baptist Church.

Deciding it was time for a real job, and in an effort to get back closer to family, Julie accepted the position of Admissions Counsellor at MCC and RJ became the Youth Director of Manhattan’s First United Methodist Church. Today, Julie is the Director of Kenoyer Residence Hall where 60 MCC women call home.

With each stop, Robinson said, the one goal has been to learn more about how to become a more Godly Man, and for Julie, a Godly Woman.

Which is?

Pausing, Robinson said, “It’s constantly trying to imitate Christ in all that you do.”

Pausing again, “That’s my simplest definition.”




Joshua McCrickard, Plainville, Kansas


Elijah Mendez, Topeka, Kansas


Andrew martin, Capitola, California

Brendan Tener, Shawnee, Kansas

Bucky Hayes, Abilene, Kansas

Ryan Watts, Burlington, Kansas


Sept. 10      at Sterling College in Sterling, Kansas

Sept. 23      at Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kansas

Oct. 8          at Bethel College in Newton, Kansas

Oct. 22       at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas

Oct. 29       at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri

Nov. 12      at National Tournament in Jackson, Mississippi

Story by Mark Janssen

MCC Scoreboard

1/18/2020 | Mens Basketball vs. No. 8 Central Christian College of the Bible | W, 99-84 
1/18/2020 | Womens Basketball vs. Central Christian College of the Bible | W, 71-68 
1/14/2020 | Mens Basketball at No. RV Calvary University | W, 89-81 
1/14/2020 | Womens Basketball at Calvary University | L, 84-50 
1/9/2020 | Womens Basketball at Southwestern Adventist | W, 61-47