A trip to the NCAA Division II National Championships is up for grabs on Saturday when the Hillsdale College men’s cross country team competes in the Midwest Regional at Hayden Park. The Chargers, currently ranked seventh in the region, need to jump at least two positions to be in play for an at-large bid to the national meet in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania next month.
The Chargers are coming off a fourth-place finish at the G‑MAC Championships two weeks ago, and will face many of the same teams at the regional meet. Junior Joey Humes said he looks forward to showing the competition how good the team really is.
“The guys that finished ahead of us at the conference, they’ve got some pretty big heads right now and they’re showing it,” Humes said. “I really hope regionals is a chance to show that’s not where we really are.”
This will be the team’s second meet this year on its home course this season. The first race at Hayden Park in October resulted in a win for Hillsdale, and assistant coach R.P. White thinks the familiarity with the course will give his team a big advantage.
“We know where all the subtle hills are, we know where the big monster hills are, and we know where the sharp turns are,” White said. “Some of the teams, even though they will preview it on Friday, won’t have it memorized. We basically have the thing memorized. It doesn’t ensure we are going to be successful, but it definitely is a helping hand.”
This weekend’s meet will be the Chargers’ first 10-kilometer race this year, as opposed to the eight kilometer distance the team usually competes at. Team opinion about the jump to the longer distance is mixed, with some confident it will help the team and others not sure about the change.
Sophomore Morgan Morrison said high-mileage runners such as himself and senior Eli Poth will have an advantage during the longer race.
“Kids that maybe ran more mileage during the summer just have more of an advantage because their bodies are more oriented towards that longer distance,” Morrison said. “Eli and I and some other guys have raced 10k’s on the track before, so we understand that distance pretty well.”
Humes, who holds the G‑MAC record in the 8k and is a three-time winner this year at the shorter distance, said he is unsure of what to expect from the longer race.
“This whole season I kind of had a plan for the 8k, and I know how to race that. The 10k has another mile and change that you’re just nailing onto the end of it,” Humes said. “It’s new, which is fun, but there are just a lot of unknowns going into it.”
Humes said he was pleased with how the Chargers looked last meet, and said they don’t have to make any fundamental changes leading up to the regional meet.
“In terms of our attitude going into the [G‑MAC Championship] meet, it was better than any meet, and everyone put out their best energy,” Humes said. “I think if we keep that same attitude and how we compete and how we look forward to the meets, we’ll be just fine.”