Currently ranked fourth in the country, Hillsdale College women’s cross country finished in second place among Division-II teams this weekend at the Greater Louisville Classic held at Tom Sawyer State Park in Louisville, Kentucky.
The Chargers had a total of 44 points, finishing 22 points behind No.1-ranked Grand Valley State. Bellarmine took third and Saginaw Valley State, fourth.
“They were pretty solid, a lot of stuff came out that we need to work on,” assistant coach Samantha Kearney said. “We accomplished most of the things we wanted to going into that race. There was still a lot of stuff to fix for this coming weekend.”
Senior Hannah McIntyre was the 5K’s runner up, completing it in 17:38, near her personal record from the same course last year. Just 30 seconds later, a pack of girls — freshmen Maryssa Depies and Christina Sawyer, junior Allysen Eads, and freshman Kyleigh Edwards — took 11th, 12th, 13th, and 14th places, coming within 14 seconds of each other.
“That’s close in cross country terms, that was good to see,” Kearney said.
Sawyer, from Tecumseh, Michigan, surpassed her personal record from high school by 21 seconds. She credited the team mentality, the high level of talent, and the training strategies for her shorter time.
Finishing so close to her other teammates was awesome, she said.
“During the last mile, some of us might have lost sight of each other, but we were all going for it, working together,” Sawyer said. “It was cool to see everyone finish together and stay together as a team.”
Eads said the pack finished together because she practiced beforehand with the freshmen, who stuck with her fast start at the meet, forming a pack that could get ahead of the excessive density of the Louisville meet and move to the outside.
“There are so many people, it’s so crowded, so I was kind of like the leader because I’m pretty good at weaving through people, and Christina and Kyleigh were behind me kind of like ducks in a line,” Eads said. “We all worked well together, if I passed someone, they’d follow me.”
Eads said Louisville shook up the team mentality for two reasons: First, because it’s a 5K, which makes it easy to think about beating personal records, rather than focusing on passing people. Second, because they were surrounded by D-I teams, it felt more like an individual race because it was hard to pick out the D-II teams they were racing against.
At the Lewis meet, they will race against more D-II teams.
Saturday, the team will split in two: Senior Maddie Richards and freshman Megan Poole will head to a 5K in East Lansing, while everyone else will go to Lewis University in Chicago for a 6K conference crossover.
While the back-to-back races aren’t necessarily ideal for cross country, Kearney said it’s a good opportunity for the women to see how they stack up against more D-II schools, since up until now the team has competed against mostly D-I schools.
She said they’ll also emphasize strategic pack running rather than the all-out running that occurred at Louisville.
Preparing for this weekend’s race, Sawyer said her team could focus on sticking together beyond the first couple miles.
“We’ll do really well at staying together for the first two miles, but I think we could really work on staying more grouped up, and using that to pass people together on either side, because mentally that gets people when you pass them on both sides,” Sawyer said.
These meets are the last before the team faces its first G-MAC championship season, starting on Oct. 21.