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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.