Senior Lane White competes at last year’s Wide Track Classic. (Photo: Evan Carter | Courtesy)

The Hillsdale College men’s track and field team has always strived for excellence. The 2017-18 season is no different. 

As for how they reach that level of excellence,  head coach Andrew Towne says it has to do with the coaching staff and its relationship with the athletes.

“It’s pretty simplistic in a lot ways,” Towne explained. “We’re asking of them the same thing that professors and the administration would ask of the kids. We want their absolute best.”

Towne has witnessed some of his athletes give their absolute best in the cross country season this fall. All of his cross country runners also participate in distance events for the track and field season.

“We’ve had a really challenging fall for men’s cross country,” Towne said. “We battled through some injuries, but along the way, the guys did a really good job of focusing on the process and what we need to do to become better. I think that will carry over into track very well.”

assistant coach Richard White echoed Towne’s sentiment concerning the distance runners.

“The distance team is looking really strong. In cross country, it wasn’t as apparent because there is such a large leap from high school cross country, going from 5,000 meters to 8,000 or 10,000 meters,” White explained. “But, now we get kind of a sneak preview at how well everyone is doing. And it’s easier for them to get back on the track and run similar distances they had been running for 4 years of high school.”

Those track and field athletes not running cross country have had good success in the pre-season.

“What we call the ‘fall track program’, so kids that are sprinters, throwers, hurdlers, jumpers, they’ve had a really good fall,” Towne said. “I think we’re really well prepared for the season.”

The team graduated six seniors this past year, although Towne believes the eight incoming freshmen will fill those gaps.

“Anytime you lose seniors, you hope to replace them with talented kids, which in a lot of cases we have. Certainly, you lose experience as well,” Towne said. “Those were a good group for us. They did a lot of really good things. But I think we’ve rebuilt ourselves a little bit.”

Towne also credits captains and seniors, Nathan Jones and David Chase, with filling the shoes of the past leadership. 

“We want people that personify what our program is about,” Towne said. “The major theme we talk about all the time is Excellence. We want our kids to be good people, good students, and good athletes, doing their best all the time. Ideally, your captains personify that. Nathan really personifies what Hillsdale Track and Field really is and David as well. Basically, we want our captains to be good examples.”

Jones sees his team as well-rounded and excited for the season to start.

“This year we’ve got a lot of experience, especially with the junior and senior classes,” Jones said. “We need to utilize that and I think we’ll get a big boost being home for Conference Championships, both indoors and outdoors we get to host.” 

As for the those with less experience, Jones is optimistic about their role in the team as well.

“I think we have a pretty solid freshman class,” Jones said. “The distance side we’ve got a few different guys that will make a difference. On the track side, it’s a little bit of a smaller class. Adam Wade is a 800m runner. I think he has a lot of potential, and then we’re going to get Konnor Maloney from the football team.”

One such freshman, Morgan Morrison, is a distance runner from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  He says that while transitioning from highschool to college sports isn’t without its challenges, there are definite upsides to college sports.

“Overall the biggest thing is mileage,” Morrison explained.. “We just run more in college. The atmosphere is a lot more chill. You don’t have to go out and try and win every race. The races that matter are at the end, the championships.”

And the championships are just one of the things the team has set its sights on this year.

“Goal number one would be win a conference title in the G-MAC. Number two is let’s see everyone take where they are and just get better,” Jones said, “See an improvement across the board from year to year and even within a season. Because everytime you step on a track, it’s an opportunity to showcase what you’ve done and get better.”

The team will have an opportunity to work toward that conference title and improvements with its first meet at the SVSU Holiday Open on Dec. 1.