Junior Fiona Shea hands the baton to junior Ashlee Moran during last year’s Border Battle. Hillsdale will host this year’s Border Battle this weekend. (Photo: Anders Kiledal / Hillsdale Collegian)

This weekend, the women’s track squad split up again between Western Kentucky University and Ohio Wesleyan University. Head coach Andrew Towne said he thought the team put up a solid performance. 

“I thought, for the most part, we did a good job,” Towne said. “There were several highlights across the board, even though we didn’t have our full team competing. It was a really good week for us.”

At the 2017 WKU Hilltopper Relays, the 4×400 relay team of senior captain Allison Duber, juniors Tori Wichman and Ashlee Moran, and freshman Lorina Clemence took third. Their time of 3:45.87 met the provisional standard and they are currently ranked 10th in the nation.

According to Duber, the presence of Grand Valley’s relay team — which was the national runner-up in the indoor season — put the Hillsdale squad in the mindset to compete. This, combined with the excellent weather in Kentucky, set them up for an exceptional performance. 

“We were just ready to race,” Duber said. “Pretty much all of us PRed that day, but I know all of us can run faster. We ended up running a 3:45.8, which is a great time to run at this point in the season. It makes us really excited for what we can do this year.”

Unfortunately, 3:45.87 will not qualify the team for the national meet. Duber said they will likely have to run near 3:43 to make it to nationals. Still, the team is confident. 

“Our mindset going into outdoor is that we are a team that deserves to be at nationals,” Duber said. “We know we can be a podium-finisher team. We just need to instill that confidence within our team. We’re not trying to get anything done each week — we don’t have to do anything each week. We’re just going to let it happen.”

Towne said he was happy with the performance, but not surprised by it.

“That’s just who we are,” Towne said. “In indoor, we struggled a little bit — it was just a weird year. By all means, I was happy with what they did this weekend, but I also feel like that’s who they are. It’s something they can put down any time they want to.”

In the pole vault, senior Alex Whitford tied for second and met the automatic standard with her jump of 13 feet, 6.5 inches — her personal best by almost a foot. Whitford is now ranked second in the nation and is guaranteed a spot in the national meet.

“I wasn’t really expecting it. Going into the meet, I felt pretty centered and we had a tail wind. It all felt good, but I didn’t realize it felt that good,” Whitford said. “I know we have been working on technique in practice, and that part is coming together little by little. I didn’t expect it to happen all at once.”

Whitford said she was excited after she first cleared her previous personal record of 12 feet, 7.5 inches. She fed off of the energy of her competitors and teammates while Towne helped her remain cool and collected. Meeting the automatic mark has always been Whitford’s dream, and she said it’s surreal that she has finally achieved it.

“I’ve been praying about it a lot, because it’s an interesting place to be in,” Whitford said. “It’s so easy to take success and not build off of it, and I don’t want to do that. I’ve been listening to what my coach has to say about building on the process, because the process isn’t over just because I reached a big height. I’m just really thankful for everything that has happened.”

Towne said Whitford’s weekend success is a result of her hard work. 

“She has worked really hard,” Towne said. “I’m happy for her to break through. She’s a good example of being open to her potential and the idea that maybe she can be even better. I’m of the opinion that she’s just getting started.”

In the indoor season, Towne mentioned that this year is a transition year, especially for the women’s squad. Only two meets into the outdoor season, that transition phase may be coming to a close.

“I think we are absolutely progressing. We’re beginning to sort out who we are,” Towne said. “Everyone is becoming increasingly comfortable with their roles. That’s why we’re starting to see some really good performances.”

The Chargers will be hosting the Border Battle this weekend. Towne described the meet as small and quick, but good, with only five teams in attendance. For some Chargers, this will be their first chance to compete this season. For others, it will be a break from traveling, Towne said.