The Hillsdale College Chargers were the underdogs going into Saturday’s G‑MAC Championship race, but they proved the rankings wrong as they finished second as a team, with senior Joey Humes as the individual champion. This 8k race took place in Pepper Pike, Ohio, at Laurel School-Butler Campus.
The Chargers came together with intense effort and nine personal best times to give Hillsdale 46 points, finishing two spots ahead of the predicted rankings. Walsh University took first with 35 points and Malone University came in third with 64.
“They’re a special crew of guys,” assistant coach R.P. White said. “We really talk about living the lifestyle of a national champion team, not saying that we’re going to be the national champs this year, but just really starting to reframe how we approach our workouts and everything that encompasses being an elite athlete. They’ve done a really good job of that.”
Seeking redemption after last year’s conference meet, Humes started the race strong and kept his lead through its entirety to seal the victory with a time of 24:05.1. The next closest runner finished in 24:18.0.
“It was nice to see him grab the crown because last year I think it was kind of a fluke of a year for him, but for him to go out his senior year and do that, I was proud of him,” White said.
Juniors Mark Miller and Morgan Morrison put together an excellent pair of races, pushing each other to finish fifth and sixth, respectively. The two earned All-Conference First-Team honors and two new personal records. Miller finished in 24:49.5 and Morrison followed right behind in 24:49.9.
“Morgan was basically the guy of the day,” White said. “He just stepped up from somebody who had never been in a position to be all conference person to be First-Team All-Conference.”
Morrison said was surprised by his time and top-10 finish.
“In some ways I was really surprised by the time, but looking back, it didn’t really come out of nowhere. I hadn’t raced in like four weeks leading up to that and I was coming off a really good race as Notre Dame and I was training really, really consistently,”
Junior Jack Shelley was unable to finish the race after battling sickness leading up to the conference meet. He had finished 24th at last year’s G‑MAC Championship.
“It kind of hurt not having Jack Shelley out there. I think it would have been closer had we had Jack out there, but that comes with the territory of having a smaller team,” White said.
Morrison said that after Shelley had dropped out of the race he felt the need to step up for his team.
“During the race it was a really flat course and I could see the people in front of me. I saw there were three Walsh kids in front of me and I knew if we wanted any chance to win or place, I had to pass them,” Morrison said. “The whole race I just really focused on moving up the whole time because I knew that’s what it would take for the team to do well.”
Sophomore Adam Wier finished in 25:02.1 to take 11th, which is a big improvement from last year’s 48th-place finish. He earned a spot on the All-Conference Second Team.
Despite the pressure of championship season, freshman Mark Sprague ran his best time ever by more than a minute and a half. He crossed the line in 25:39.4 to take 23rd overall.
After running in his first conference championship cross country race last season and placing 79th, senior Alex Oquist jumped up to 38th place on Saturday with a PR of 26:15.7. He was followed by freshman Issac Waffle whose time of 26:25.0 earned him 46th place.
Senior Charles Holbrook is taking advantage of his improved health after two years of complications. He wasn’t even able to run in last year’s conference meet, but this year he finished with a big PR of 26:38.9, taking 52nd place overall.
Freshman Sean Hoeft has consistently gotten better with each race, and Saturday was no different. He rounded out the pack of Chargers, finishing in 71st place with a PR of 27:14.1.
After Saturday’s race the previously unranked Chargers moved up to eighth in the Midwest Regional rankings. They’ll compete in Evansville, Indiana, on Nov. 9 for a chance to qualify for the NCAA Division II national meet.
“Coming in second might have been the best thing for us going into regionals,” Morrison said. “We didn’t quite taste that victory and we’re still really hungry for it. We’ve been training all year for that 10k and so going into that we are really confident that we could place really well.”