The Hillsdale women’s cross country team has a chance to qualify for the NCAA Division II National Championship meet for the sixth year in a row this Saturday. The Midwest Regional six-kilometer race begins at 11:45 a.m. at Hayden Park.
The top three teams in the region will advance to the national championships. Additional teams will be picked from each region following a bidding system for a total of 34 teams. The top two runners in each region who are not a part of a qualifying team will also qualify, and if the runners in the top five of the race are not a part of a national-qualifying team, they will also advance.
The Chargers are currently ranked fourth in the region behind three nationally-ranked teams. Last year, Hillsdale took second to Grand Valley State University at the regional meet with four runners in the top 25. Grand Valley is ranked first in the region again this year. The Chargers bring back three runners from last year’s regional runner-up team.
“I think there’s a better chance of beating Walsh because we have the home course advantage,” sophomore Maryssa Depies said. “And rumor has it that they’re not very good at hills.”
Walsh was the G-MAC champion after the conference meet on Nov. 3, where Hillsdale placed second. Depies and junior Arena Lewis earned first team all-conference, and sophomore Christina Sawyer got second team all-conference.
“I think we’re better than them,” Sawyer said. “Everyone just needs to give their best races. We’re just starting to taper now, so we have a better chance for a really good race.”
Assistant coach R.P. White said the Chargers have been training on tough hills and had a great workout on Friday.
“Walsh has been training on a flatter area and we have the upper hand,” he said. “We’ve trained on every inch of that course and we’re going to be well prepared.”
The Chargers are heading into Saturday’s race with many goals in mind.
“My goal is to be in the top ten,” Depies said. “I feel like this one is more special because we’ve done so many workouts out there. It’s like, ‘Yeah, we own this.’”
Sawyer says she wants to join Depies and junior Arena Lewis in the top ten.
“Anything can happen in a big race like this, and they’re definitely talented enough,” White said. “We just want to focus on having our best races and protect our course.