Track Coach and Student Athlete Receive National Recognition
Maggie Niland could barely run a mile when she joined her high school’s cross country team in her freshman year. Even though she was one of the slowest compared to her teammates, she stuck with it and kept improving. Then, an injury put her out for half the season and prevented her from running indoor track.
“When I fully recovered, I came back faster than ever and surprised everyone,” she said.
Fast forward four years later, and Niland, a first year student at Howard Community College (HCC), is making a big name for herself in the track and cross country communities. The U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Association recently named Niland the East Region’s 2015 Women’s Athlete of the Year. Her regional and conference wins, including clocking a 20.08 in the championship 5K that led the HCC Dragons to a second-place team showing, stood out to the USTFCCCA.
At the same time, the USTFCCCA named HCC Head Cross Country and Track Coach Steve Musselman the East Region Men’s Coach of the Year, noting the team’s dominating wins at the NJCAA Region XX and Maryland JUCO conferenceswhile placing three on the All-Region Team.
Musselman said he was honored “because the award is voted on by other coaches.”
As for Niland, she was shocked.
“It was a very humbling and proud moment for me,” she said.
The coach and athlete have made a great team since Musselman recruited Niland the first week of classes during HCC’s annual Club Rush event in the fall. At that time, Niland was unsure if she wanted to continue running in college.
“Coach Musselman saw me wearing a shirt that said ‘Cross Country State Championships’ and instantly recruited me,” Niland said. “I’m so glad I decided to join the team.”
Niland came from an established high school program in Laurel, Maryland, and Musselman knew she had talent.
“There’s always a transition period with a new coach; similar to going to a new school,” he said. “We were able to connect in our own quiet way, and she bought into what we wanted to do.”
Musselman said he could see Niland’s confidence grow throughout the season.
“She is very consistent with her training and performances,” he said. “Everything certainly paid off for her. We are looking forward to the upcoming track season.”
Musselman said his men’s team was very excited to learn he was named Men’s Coach of the Year.
“I tell the team it was because of what they accomplished; that this award happened,” he said. “As I always tell them, ‘Let your actions speak for what you have accomplished.’ We were very proud of each other.”
Musselman started the cross country and track programs 31 years ago. His best memories are the relationships he has developed over the years.
“I tell all my students that what I really want to know is that in ten years, they are happy and hopefully making a good living for themselves and their family,” he said. “I think it speaks volumes of the program that a lot still stay in touch with each other and me.”
The Dragons are a consistent top five team in the country for cross country and a top ten in track.
Musselman wants athletes to consider joining HCC’s track and cross country teams because students get the opportunity to compete, get the benefit of experienced coaches, and develop a great start to their education.
“Students will get a lot of exposure to four-year institutions competing for HCC,” he said.
For Niland, choosing HCC just made sense.
“It was the most cost-effective option, and I was still unsure of my career path,” she said. “My older sister chose HCC for similar reasons and encouraged me to enroll here.”
Niland said she plans to graduate from HCC and transfer to a four-year school, preferably in Maryland.
“I would love to continue running at a college level,” she said.
Q&A with Maggie Niland
HCC: What keeps you motivated?
Niland: My teammates are my motivation. They are always there supporting me and encouraging me.
HCC: What is your favorite running spot in Howard County?
Niland: Wincopin Trail in Savage. In high school, this is where we ran a lot of our Saturday practices. Whenever I run here, I think about all of the good memories I had running for my high school team.
HCC: Do you have a favorite workout?
Niland: It is hard to choose a favorite workout, but if I had to choose one it would be the 1000m repeats. I prefer longer distance workouts rather than shorter distance speed-work.
HCC: What is your favorite post-running/workout meal?
Niland: If I am hungry right after practice, I might eat a small snack like a piece of fruit or a granola bar. I eat a plant-based diet, so for meals I like eating rice and beans or pasta with lots of veggies.
HCC: What’s the best part of being part of the HCC team?
Niland: The best part of being part of the HCC team is my teammates. I love the camaraderie of the team. They are some of the nicest, most supportive people I know. I can always count on them to be there for me.