Junior Emily Oren was determined to avoid running in college. She never anticipated she would win the most prestigious award for a cross country runner in the most competitive region in the nation.
Last weekend, Oren was the second female runner from Hillsdale College to win the NCAA Division II Regional Athlete of the Year.
“I mostly won the award because I won regionals,” Oren said. “But it’s also an accumulation of how you’ve done in other races.”
With a time of 20:45, Oren helped the Chargers take second out of the 33 teams that competed at the NCAA Division II regional championship on Nov. 22.
Coach Joseph Lynn said that Oren’s mental and physical strength make the perfect hybrid for a successful cross country runner.
“She can handle a quick pace and move as fast as anyone at the end of the race,” he said.
Oren runs 65 miles a week, training for at least two hours a day.
“I was a decent runner in high school,” she said. “I could have walked onto Division I teams, but I wouldn’t have been on scholarship right away. I was adamant that I wouldn’t run, but then I visited Hillsdale and loved the coaches.”
Although Oren runs the same times as Division I athletes, she never doubted her decision to run for Hillsdale.
“I could run on varsity teams,” Oren said. “With Division I programs you get eaten up though. It’s nice here because it’s a big team and a small team at the same time. You get a lot of personal attention which has helped me a lot.”
This weekend, she will join six teammates to run her last race of the year in NCAA Division II national championship. Out of the 25 schools that will run the race, the Chargers are ranked fifth and Oren is seeded third individually.
Lynn is not distracted by rankings, however, as he finds them somewhat arbitrary as seen in the regional race where Oren beat the runner seeded first by the NCAA.
“This year, the Midwest is the toughest region in the country,” Lynn said. “But our thoughts this weekend are not going to change that much. We will keep the same race plan that we’ve had the last three races. Establish a spot in the front pack, but don’t lead- so when a move is made, we can react.”
Senior Rachel Warner said that training with runners like Oren improves the overall performance of the team, both in morale and fitness.
“When there’s an athlete at that level of competition, it pushes the team,” Warner said. “Watching her run makes me want to work harder. She’s given us someone to chase.”