Mark Miller runs at the Calvin College Knight Invi­ta­tional earlier this season. (Calli Townsend | Col­legian)

The Hillsdale College Chargers are ready to get into the heart of their season, starting with the G‑MAC Cross Country Cham­pi­onship meet this Sat­urday.

The women enter the cham­pi­onship season ranked No. 10 in the nation. With the con­ference meet is this Sat­urday, and the Midwest Regional two weeks later, the Chargers are ready to prove why they’ve been nationally-ranked all season. 

“People are in a really good spot right now. Obvi­ously our end goal is nationals, so we’re not training to peak at this race, but people are starting to feel really good,” junior Christina Sawyer said. “We have a really good con­ference this year. A lot of teams are nationally ranked, but I think hon­estly out of all the teams we’re in the best position to win.”

Sawyer fin­ished third on the team at the con­ference meet last year behind senior Arena Lewis and junior Maryssa Depies. The three have con­tinued to lead the team this season with some of their fastest times in their careers. 

Last season the Chargers battled with the Walsh Uni­versity Cav­a­liers. Walsh hosted and won the G‑MAC Cham­pi­onship, then Hillsdale hosted the Regional Cham­pi­onship and took second, while Walsh fin­ished fourth. On the national stage, the Cav­a­liers fin­ished 12th while Hillsdale took 19th. This weekend is the Chargers’ turn to steal the victory.

With Walsh ranked 13th in the national polls, only one other con­ference opponent is in the rankings — Malone Uni­versity, who took fourth at the con­ference meet last year. 

Hillsdale has qual­ified for the NCAA Division II National meet for the last six years, so the upper­classmen have major expe­rience to fall back on as they lead their team through the con­ference meet. Senior Kate Van­der­stelt said the team is feeling ready.

“I’m kind of sad, but I’m excited,” Van­der­stelt said of her last G‑MAC Cross Country Cham­pi­onship. “We have a really good team, really good culture, and really good energy.” 

The men are coming off an exciting pair of races and per­sonal best times, and are ready to bring those fast times to the course this weekend. 

Three con­ference oppo­nents find them­selves ranked among the top 10 in the region, while Hillsdale remains unranked. 

Senior Joey Humes boasts the top time in the con­ference so far this season, winning G‑MAC Cross Country Athlete of the Week twice and Division II National Cross Country Athlete of the Week once. 

“I’m pretty con­fident. Being ranked number one does put a good amount of con­fi­dence going into the meet,” Humes said. “But also, I was kind of number one going into the meet last year too, and I didn’t do very well, so I’m trying to take that with a grain of salt.” 

After a dis­ap­pointing finish at the con­ference meet last year, Humes qual­ified as an indi­vidual for the National meet, where he earned his first All-American status. He said this year he’ll be more inten­tional about being aware of the course con­di­tions. 

The pre­season polls picked Hillsdale to finish fourth to Walsh, Malone, and Cedarville Uni­ver­sities, respec­tively. Each of these teams is ranked ahead of Hillsdale in the regional rankings, but that’s not con­sid­ering the standout per­for­mances the Chargers had earlier this month. 

“I don’t think there’s any team that’s hands down the best,” Humes said. “I think it’s all a pretty close three or four teams, so I think if anybody has a really good day they can win it, and I think the same goes for us. I don’t see why we can’t.” 

Sophomore Adam Wier, who has shaved nearly a minute and a half off his per­sonal record this season, said he’s ready to make a name for himself at the con­ference meet. 

“I’m ready to put my name forward as one of the best in the G‑MAC cross country,” he said. “I hope­fully get first team and just give my best effort out there and we’ll see what happens.” 

Ursuline College will host the G‑MAC Cham­pi­onship meet at the Laurel School Butler Campus in Pepper Pike, Ohio. The women’s race will follow the men’s race, which is at 10:30.