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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.