Hillsdale men’s and women’s cross country teams pause for a picture during summer camp. (Photo: R.P White | Courtesy)

This fall, the Hillsdale women’s cross country team will be kicking off its season earlier than ever. The team will be racing at the Jeff Drenth Memorial in Mount Pleasant, Michigan on Friday. The race will be a 5k for the women against several Division I schools.

“It will be cool that we can get the jitters and rust busted earlier than ever,” senior Allysen Eads said. 

An earlier start to the season is not the only change these Chargers will expe­rience. This season brings a few coaching changes in both the cross country and track pro­grams. Women’s assistant coach Samantha Kearney will be replaced by assistant coach R.P. White, who will con­tinue to coach the men’s cross country team as well.

“I’m sad to see coach Sam go, obvi­ously, but I’m really excited for the season,” Eads said. “I’m excited that the guys and girls are mixed again with the same coach because the mix creates a cool and more chill dynamic which is great.”

As the defending con­ference cham­pions, Hillsdale has a strong chance to repeat its victory, as a recent coaches poll indi­cates. They received 13 of 14 votes to win the G‑MAC title for the second con­sec­utive year.

Head coach Andrew Towne said that Eads, along with sopho­mores Maryssa Depies and Christina Sawyer, will be a few of the team’s key returners. 

“I think we have a great group of girls. They’ve had really good summer training ses­sions. I’m excited to get started with our season,” Towne said.  “I’m excited to see how Eads does in her final cam­paign. She’s been to the NCAA national cham­pi­onships for us every year, both in cross country and in outdoor track. I think her best year is yet in front of her.” 

Depies, who had a foot injury during the 2018 outdoor track season, is looking forward to com­peting again.

“I’m feeling really excited to race again, it’s been a while since I’ve done that,” Depies said. “I think we have a pretty strong team this year, so I’m hoping we will be able to compete well at the national level.”

Despite losing top runners such as Hannah McIntyre, Amanda Reagle, and Kyleigh Edwards, the team is con­fident in its potential to succeed this season. Much of the team’s strength comes from its sea­soned upper­classmen, who are looking forward to helping the three incoming freshmen.

“We have a really strong group of upper­classmen which will be helpful in getting our awesome freshmen inte­grated quickly,” Eads said. “As always, I’m looking forward to the team being very close and I think this will be a special year.”