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(Photo: Hillsdale College Athletics)

The men’s cross country team may have run the last 8K of the conference season two weeks ago, but they’re still busy preparing for a 10K at Saturday’s Midwest regional meet — a distance the team’s freshmen haven’t raced before.

“We’re getting ready to go — a lot of us have cut our mileage down, so we’re ready to race well,” junior Nick Fiene said. “Everyone’s excited for regionals. I know some of the freshmen are a little nervous about moving up to a 10K, and that is an added factor into the race for everyone, but I think it will be pretty exciting. I think our team will be ready and we’ll have a pretty good shot to do well at regionals.”

The team will compete in Cedarville, Ohio, in the regional meet and must place in the top three to secure a spot at the national meet as a team.

The team placed fourth at the G-MAC championship meet Oct. 21 in Nashville, Tennessee.

“I think we’re in kind of the same boat we were in last year,” assistant coach R.P. White said. “At GLIACs, we didn’t run an ideal race, but the bigger picture is regionals…I think this weekend we’ll run lights-out like we did last year at regionals.”

Hillsdale’s top runners at the championship meet — senior Nathan Jones, junior Nick Fiene, and freshman Mark Miller, placed 14th, 15th, and 16th overall with respective times of 25:56.5, 26:05.0, and 26:10.4.

“For the most part, I was very happy with the effort,” White said. “Our top three guys were aggressive right off the line, right from the start.”

Also scoring for the Chargers were freshmen Nick Wondaal and Morgan Morrison, who took 31st and 37th place, bringing the team to a total score of 113 points.

“We were a little disappointed — we thought we may have had a shot at being in it to win it, but a couple things didn’t go our way,” Fiene said. “We just have some guys with some injuries. That’s been our biggest downfall this season so far, and that affected us at G-MACs.”

At the conference meet, Jones earned second-team all-conference honors, a distinction head coach Andrew Towne said was fitting for the senior legacy captain’s effort and achievement.

Despite their fourth-place finish in the conference, Towne said the team remains optimistic for Saturday’s regional meet.

“We were really pleased with the men’s effort — they did exactly what we talked about,” Towne said. “We just dealt with some injuries this year and not having all of our pieces together. We didn’t get what we wanted out of that meet, but a year ago, we didn’t at our conference meet either, and regionals went really well. It’s the biggest meet of the year, and I think we’ll get our best performance of the year.”