The Hillsdale Chargers took seventh place out of 29 teams at the Division II Pre-National meet at Slippery Rock University on Saturday. The team was led by junior Joey Humes, who finished fourth overall and won his third G-MAC Men’s Cross Country Athlete of the Week award, the most of any Hillsdale athlete this year.
Also scoring for the Chargers were sophomore Mark Miller and senior Eli Poth, who finished 26th and 42nd respectively. Rounding out the top five for the Chargers were sophomores Jack Shelley and Morgan Morrison, who finished 68th and 74th respectively.
Saturday’s Pre-National meet was held at the site of the Division II National Championships, and top teams from all over the country came to compete and get a preview of the course. Among the competition was third-ranked Colorado School of Mines, seventh-ranked Queens University of Charlotte, and the ninth-ranked University of Mount Olive.
““We went just to check out the course and compete against some high level competition,” Humes said. “We know how nationals looks now, even if that’s a 10k instead of an 8k.”
The Chargers were the fastest team in the conference for the first two and a half miles of the race, but were bested down the stretch by their three conference rivals: Cedarville University, Malone University, and Walsh University.
The fast start was a preplanned strategy to help the team develop, and assistant coach R.P. White said he was pleased with how the team handled the strategy.
“We went out aggressive, maybe a little too aggressive, but I think for the overall development of the guys it was good,” White said. “We showed them we can run with anybody and if we just dial it back a little to give the guys a little more strength to put in the middle and end of the race, we can be right in the mix when conference rolls around.”
Another reason for the fast start was to try to get ahead of congestion on a course that narrows quickly after the starting line, Humes said.
“The course funneled down really quick, it had a big start line and they funnel you down to about four abreast. In those scenarios its beneficial to get out hard,” Humes said. “The lead pack spaces out faster and then you have more room to make moves.”
While the Chargers did not place first in their conference, senior Eli Poth said the team showed they can compete for first place in the conference.
“We didn’t get the result we wanted, because we finished fourth in our conference and we want to finish first. We need to beat those guys, but we showed we can compete alongside them,” Poth said. “We didn’t have our best day and we were still within 40 points of the best team, so that’s pretty competitive.”