The Hillsdale Chargers ran through herds of people, the rain and mud, and the many hills of Schenley Park at the NCAA Division II National Cross Country Championships on Saturday in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
This was Hillsdale’s sixth consecutive appearance as a team in the national meet. After spending several weeks in the middle of the season unranked, they snuck into the top 25 in 18th after the Midwest Regional meet. The Chargers finished their season ranked 19th in the nation.
“Overall it was a tough day,” assistant coach R.P. White said. “I think we set our expectations a little higher than we finished, but ever there we still gained some really good experience.”
Junior Arena Lewis led the Chargers through the mud to earn her first All-American title. She finished 37th out of 264 runners with a time of 23:26.6.
“I wanted to get top 25. I knew if I raced like I did at regionals, it would’ve been possible,” Lewis said. “But then I got really nervous and tried to mimic the things I did before regionals but I got too caught up in that. Coach and I talked about how intense nerves can really drain you.”
Sophomore Maryssa Depies followed Lewis to take 76th in 24:11.3.
“It was awful honestly. It was really hard,” Depies said. “The position you got out in was the position you were stayed in. You were really stuck in the mud. Experience and training were kind of just out the window, but I felt better because I knew what to expect. You can only do so much in the moment. I just felt like I was giving it my all.” ”
The course was set up to force runners into packs early on in the race. About 400 meters into the race, runners were funneled into more narrow fencing, making it difficult to pass anyone. Starting strong was crucial.
Senior Ally Eads crossed the finish line next in 25:01.8 for 151st place. She finished right ahead of sophomore teammate Christina Sawyer, who finished in 25:09.9 in 159th place.
“Each year it is always really rewarding to make it to the biggest meet of the year and go with my teammates,” Eads said of her fourth and final national cross country race.
Sophomore Lauren Peterson competed on the national stage for the first time in her collegiate career. She finished in 180th place with a time of 25:30.4.
Junior Kate Vanderstelt finished earned 199th in 25:43.5 and junior Addison Rauch took 222nd with a time of 26:11.3.
White said he is glad for the experience for his team.
“It’s good to be a sponge and absorb everything,” he said. “That’ll help us for track nationals or next year’s cross country nationals.”
Overall, the Chargers were grateful for the opportunity to run.
“Even after the race people were in good moods,” Lewis said. “That’s just what like the most, when people aren’t grumpy after races.”