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This Sat­urday, the men’s and women’s cross-country teams will compete at the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional Meet at Angel Mounds State His­toric Park in Evans­ville, Indiana.
Between waking up at 6:30 a.m. for Sunday morning prac­tices, making long drives to meets in crowded vans, and pushing one another in workouts, the men’s and women’s cross-country teams spend a lot of time together.
In the midst of all the miles run and the hours spent together, a unique team culture has emerged that is not only dis­tinct from other teams at Hillsdale, but even varies from pre­vious year’s cross-country teams. This culture is hard working and helps drive the team’s success, but the team never forgets to have fun.
“I think the thing that made it most man­ageable is that we’re doing it together,” senior captain Kate Royer said. “Getting up for 6:30 practice is easier when we’re getting up to hang out with our friends.”
The team’s col­lective drive to succeed is nec­essary in order to maintain the moti­vation needed to work hard every day, as training starts in late May and the national meet isn’t until six months later on Nov. 21.
During the season, the ath­letes rarely take time off. They spend every day either running or cross-training by some sort of aerobic physical activity. Some of the runners on the men’s team run up to 100 miles in a single week.
They wake up early to run, and they run after class. Some runs are relaxed, some are all-out, and others long.
And the team’s def­i­n­ition of relaxed, all-out, and long is dif­ferent from that of a regular student. One of the men may jog a 6:40 mile easy, sprint a 4:30 mile hard, and run a 16-mile long run. Equally impressive, a woman may jog a 7:10 mile easy, sprint a 5:10 mile hard, and run an 11-mile long run.
If team members are injured and can’t run, they don’t just sit around and wait for their injury to heal. Instead, they cross-train for longer than they would nor­mally be running, unless their injury pre­vents them from cross-training too.
This hard-working attitude is in part demanded by the coaches.
“They do a tremendous amount of work, but in some ways what they do requires a lot of work,” head coach Andrew Towne said.
The ath­letes encourage this attitude of hard work as well. This attitude is not only modeled by indi­viduals, but is con­ta­gious throughout the whole group.
“I expect people to work hard,” Royer said. “People need to hold them­selves respon­sible.”
In order to be able to keep their bodies able to perform throughout the season, the team makes sac­ri­fices to get to bed while many stu­dents are still awake doing homework or hanging out with friends.
Senior captain Emily Oren said that the team brags about how early they can get to bed.
“We like going to bed on time,” she said.
But in the midst of the daily grind, the team always loves to have fun.
“Sometime it’s hard to sep­arate it because we just want to have fun,” Oren said.
In their free time, the men enjoy watching movies together (espe­cially Nacho Libre), going on squirrel hunting expe­di­tions, and throwing their old shoes on the “shoe tree” on Halfmoon Lake road.
Freshman San­tiago Quintana explained the team’s love of Nacho Libre.
“The use of stretchy pants we admire. And because it shows what it takes to be an elite athlete,” Quintana said. “We’re a team, we do every­thing together — including eating squirrels.”
When not in bed before 10 p.m., the women’s team enjoys watching “Parks and Recre­ation” together.
Addi­tionally, they organize special “theme Thursdays,” when they coor­dinate their clothing colors for their runs. In the past, themes have included ninja day, America day, and rainbow day.
“We’re a pretty chill group of girls,” Royer said.
The men’s and women’s teams often hang out together, eating their meals together in the Knorr Family Dining Room and hosting co-ed events.
On Hal­loween, the team dressed up in cos­tumes, broke up into teams of five and par­tic­i­pated in a scav­enger hunt.
For Royer, events like the scav­enger hunt are crucial for team bonding.
“I think it’s important because it builds our friend­ships and rela­tion­ships outside of running,” she said.