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The Hillsdale College Chargers pose together with tro­phies and a banner after cap­turing the 2019 G‑MAC Cham­pi­onship.
courtesy | ursuline college ath­letics

The Hillsdale College Chargers won the G‑MAC Cross Country Cham­pi­onship meet, beating last year’s champion Walsh Uni­versity, by a mere three points, in Pepper Pike, Ohio, on Sat­urday.

With only a three point dif­ference between first and second, each Charger’s place played a crucial role in the victory, and many of them stepped up in huge ways, earning even bigger per­sonal records.

The Chargers went into Saturday’s 6k race ranked 10th in the nation and were the chosen favorites, but Walsh wasn’t far behind in the regional rankings and had the con­fi­dence of last year’s victory as an advantage. But the Chargers proved why they were ranked No. 10. While Hillsdale had 43 points and Walsh had 46, Cedarville Uni­versity took third with 74.

“The victory def­i­nitely was sweet, espe­cially with not having the trophy go home with us last year, so to go and reclaim that was special,” assistant coach R.P. White said. “But I think even more so just the way that they approached the race, they just went out and were dom­inant from the get go.” 

Senior Arena Lewis and junior Maryssa Depies led the way for the Chargers, taking second and third, respec­tively. They each earned per­sonal records and a spot on the All-Con­ference First Team. Lewis and Depies worked together throughout the race, fin­ishing the same way in 20:55.3 and 20:55.7. 

“We knew there were going to be lots of good teams so you can’t dis­count anybody because there’s always somebody who sneaks in there,” Lewis said. “We were just trying to go out there and do what we could for each other, and do what we could indi­vid­ually as a team to get points.”  

Sophomore Sophia Maeda is as strong as ever as she shaved four minutes off of her time from last year’s con­ference meet. She fin­ished ninth to earn a spot on the All-Con­ference Second team with a time of 21:18.3. 

Sat­urday was freshman Gwynne Riley’s second time ever running a 6k and she shocked everyone with a 12th-place finish in 21:30.7, improving by nearly three minutes. Her best 6k time from earlier this season was 24:23.5. 

“People who weren’t nor­mally up top filled in some spots and did amazing,” Lewis said.”That’s why our team is amazing because we have people who step up when other people are having bad days.” 

White said the way the team stepped up during the race really made the dif­ference in order to get the win.

“That’s exactly what we needed to finish that day off,” White said. “Some people had off days and it might not reflect that from a time stand­point, but we needed those people to come in and step up at the right time and they did it at the right time. With Gwynne, the sky’s the limit for her and for the other girls who had those big break­throughs.” 

Junior Christina Sawyer and sophomore Claire McNally put together a great pair of races as well, holding off three Cedarville runners to help secure Hillsdale’s victory. Sawyer took 17th in 21:53.3 while McNally fol­lowed right behind in 18th in 21:53.9. 

Seniors Kate Van­der­stelt and Addison Rauch have both had their best seasons yet, a trend that con­tinued on Sat­urday as they both ran their best 6k times to finish 21st and 25th, respec­tively. Van­der­stelt fin­ished in 22:01.5 and Rauch in 22:10.6. This was Rauch’s best time since 2016, and Vanderstelt’s first time ever breaking into the 22-minute range. 

“We were really just focused on each other and doing every­thing we could to sac­rifice what we could for each other,” Van­der­stelt said. “I think that was very apparent out there which is cool.”

Freshman Meg Scheske fol­lowed right behind Rauch, taking 26th in 22:10.8, while sophomore Amber Mango took 45th in 22:57.4. Both of these times were per­sonal bests for the seasons. 

Head coach for the Hillsdale track and field and cross country pro­grams Andrew Towne earned the Great Midwest Coach of the Year as a result of Saturday’s victory.

The Chargers are ranked second in the Midwest Region behind Grand Valley State Uni­versity. Walsh moved up to third after Saturday’s race. Hiillsdale will con­tinue to train this week and prepare for the regional meet on Nov. 9 in Evans­ville, Indiana. 

“We just want to keep doing the same thing we’ve been doing all season. I think we’re making really good steps forward but we’re not changing any­thing.”