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.