The Hillsdale Chargers finished fourth in the G‑MAC conference championships on Saturday, running through a mud-caked course in Canton, Ohio.
The Chargers were led by senior Eli Poth, who finished sixth overall and was named first-team all-conference. Assistant coach R.P. White said he was pleased with how Poth handled the conditions on what Poth called the worst course he’d ever raced on.
“Eli ran a phenomenal race, and it’s really been awesome for him to race this year, and for all of these things he thinks about himself as a runner to come to fruition,” White said. “He did an awesome job being up in that front pack. It was just a sloppy mess out there and it suited him real well.”
Poth said the knowledge that the team’s usual frontrunner, junior Joey Humes, was struggling in the conditions gave him the boost needed to run his best race of the season.
“Joey had a bad day. He should have won and everyone knows that,” Poth said. “When I saw Joey was hurting, I knew I had to do what I could to make up for that.”
Humes finished 13th and was named to second-team all-conference, but it was the first time this year that Humes was not the team’s best finisher. Humes said he didn’t run his best race, but was happy for Poth to get the recognition he deserves from his competitors.
The eight-kilometer race was ran on a loop course, requiring the pack of runners to repeatedly run over areas of mud disturbed by their previous efforts. The poor condition of the course changed how the race was ran, and junior Eric Poth said that gave the advantage to runners who saved energy at the start of the race.
“Everyone went into the first mile thinking we were going to run the normal pace so we all came through about normal, but by the second loop it was really apparent it was super muddy and thick,” Eric Poth said. “It favored the people who started a little more conservatively as opposed to more aggressively because the mud really started to wear on a lot of people’s legs and if you went a little slower up front you had more energy left.”
Also scoring for the Chargers were sophomores Mark Miller and Jack Shelley, who finished 16th and 24th, respectively. The other runner to score for the Chargers was Eric Poth, who finished 31st.
The team’s next meet will be the Midwest Regional on Saturday at Hayden Park. It will be the first 10-kilometer race of the season, and a high finish in that race could catapult the Chargers into the Division II National Championships in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The Chargers, currently ranked seventh in the Midwest Region, need to finish in at least the top five to advance to nationals, and may have to beat some of the same teams they faced in the G‑MAC Championships last week.
“Even though we aren’t where we wanted to be, we are getting better as a team and getting closer to the teams we need to beat at regionals,” Eli Poth said. “We just need to put it together next Saturday and just have a good race.”