The themes of this season for the men’s cross country team have been improvement and effort, and the fruits of the team’s work paid off with a 10th place finish at the Midwest Regional meet.
“As a team, that was the best performance we’ve had all season,” senior captain Nathan Jones said. “It was good to have a positive note there at the end. You look at where we were at Michigan State at that very first meet of the season to where we finished, you definitely saw us make some strides. That’s going to happen with a young team, and it’s good. We were able to keep moving forward and getting better. I’m proud of those guys. We could’ve just thrown in the towel, but we kept battling.”
Hillsdale finished the meet with 314 points, led by junior Nick Fiene, who placed 41st overall with a time of 32:46.4. Freshman Mark Miller placed second on the team and 51st overall with a time of 33:02.9. Miller said the transition to a 10K race for regionals was easier, since he and the other freshmen were able to apply the learning experience their earlier transition to collegiate-level races.
“The distance was pretty tough, but not as tough as the transition from 5K to 8K, just because we had guys reiterating the same messages of not going out too hard,” Miller said. “It was better than I thought it would be, but it was still tough.”
Junior Eli Poth took third place on the team and 65th overall with a time of 33:18.9. Assistant coach R.P. White said Poth was able to overcome challenges from earlier in the season to finish the season with a strong race.
“Honestly, probably the biggest shift was Eli Poth,” White said. “He’d been working a lot of different things in training, and I think he finally hit his full stride athletically and ran an awesome race.”
Also scoring for the team was Jones, who took 68th overall with a time of 33:23.3, and sophomore Nicholas Wondaal, who took 99th place with a time of 33:57.9.
Head coach Andrew Towne said Wondaal and the freshmen did an excellent job adapting to their first 10K race.
“It’s a totally different animal for them, and I thought they managed that really well,” Towne said. “No doubt they’ll continue to improve as they go on, but they managed that first one really well.”
White said he was impressed with the team’s level-headed adherence to the race plan at regionals.
“For as many people on the team that had never raced 10,000 meters before, they seemed to have a pretty good grasp on being more conservative up front and gain a lot of ground in the middle of the race,” White said. “It was really cool to watch them absorb everything I’ve been preaching at them.”
Towne said the team made incredible strides over the course of the season despite injuries, and will head into indoor track season with the team near fully recovered.
“Like I told the guys last night, they put forth incredible effort, but we just didn’t have our full team on display so that made it hard,” Towne said. “By the same token, I think everyone’s excited for indoor to show what we really can do with everyone back and healthy.”