For the first time since 1999, the women’s cross-country team placed 2nd out of 15 teams at the GLIAC tournament at Tiffin University in Tiffin, Ohio, with several outstanding individual performances.
The women’s team had their fastest average time of the season. It was the first time the women placed 2nd at the conference meet since 1999.
The Charger women’s impressive weekend launched them into 2nd place in the Midwest region and 7th in the nation. They are considered one of the top contenders for the regional and national championship.
“I think we had our best group of runners at conference,” junior Emily Oren said. “Our placement in the conference proves that.”
Oren, named National Women’s Cross Country Athlete of the Week on Oct. 27, led the team in the 6K with an impressive time of 20:52.
Junior Kristina Galat and superstar freshman Hannah McIntyre placed right behind Oren, just seconds away from each other. McIntyre was the first freshman to cross the finish line. The GLIAC named her “freshman of the year” for her impressive feat.
“Hannah raced really well,” Head Coach Andrew Towne said. “That was key.”
The solid top three group of Galat, McIntyre, and Oren will be crucial for the team’s overall score in the upcoming regional and national meets.
“We closed the time gap between our number one runner through our sixth runner,” sophomore Molly Oren said, who finished fourth on the team with a time of 21:37. “Definitely a step in the right direction.”
The Chargers’ toughest competitor at the meet, Grand Valley State University, took the championship in both the men’s and women’s meets. In the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association’s latest national poll, the Lakers were ranked the No. 1 Division II team.
“I kind of expected what happened going in to the meet. I knew that we were the second best team there, so going out and proving that was pretty awesome,” Emily Oren said.
The men’s 4th place finish in a faster conference this year was off slightly from last year, when they tied with Ashland for 3rd.
Coming off an injury, senior Joshua Mirth led the team by placing 10th out of 128 runners with a time of 24:15. Senior Luke Hickman was right on his heels with a time of 24:18, his fastest time of the season.
Senior Jack Butler also put up a personal best time, finishing the 8K in 24:49. Senior Matt Perkins finished closely behind Butler. Freshman Anthony Wondaal earned a spot in the top five Hillsdale runners with a time of 25:31.
“We were expecting a top four finish,” Hickman said. “We knew we had competition.”
Hickman said he was proud of the guys.
“Our major contributors struggled with injuries over the past few weeks before the conference meet,” he said. “It was amazing that we could keep up our fitness levels.”
Towne said he and cross-country head coach Joe Lynne feel confident with the conference race results.
“The men really battled it out. Across the board, it was satisfying,” Towne said. “I’m feeling comfortable where we are. This past weekend was good.”
The results from the conference meet have been an encouragement for both teams to place well at the regional meet on Nov. 22, Towne said.
The top four team finishers at regionals will head to the national meet in early December. In order to make competing at nationals a reality, the teams must contend with their top competition. For the ladies, Grand Valley stands as a top threat. The men must defeat Malone, Ashland, and Wisconsin Parkside to advance.
“This meet was the start to our long-term satisfaction as a team,” Towne said. “We are ready to show our competitors our strength at regionals.”