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Women’s track team is crowned G‑MAC Cham­pions (Jodi Townsend | Courtesy|

The two-day G‑MAC Con­ference Cham­pi­onship for the Hillsdale College Women’s Track and Field team was a heated com­pe­tition that came down to what head coach Andrew Towne called the buzzer-beater of track and field: the 4‑by-400m relay.

“We went into that meet down about 40 or 50 points on paper,” Towne said. “We just hadn’t shown exactly who we were yet.” 

Throughout the meet, however, the Chargers kept proving to them­selves and the com­pe­tition who they really were. 

Going into the final two events of the meet, the Chargers were second to Tiffin, the host of the meet and the defending NCAA Division II team cham­pions, by scary 24 points. But the Chargers rose to the chal­lenge in the 3,000 meter run. They dom­i­nated the event, placing four girls in the top five spots and not allowing Tiffin to score. 

Senior Arena Lewis led her dis­tance crew with a second place finish and a time of 10:07.81. She was fol­lowed by junior Maryssa Depies who ended third (10:10.57), junior Christina Sawyer in fourth (10:10.77), and freshman Gwynne Riley fin­ished fifth in 10:12.91.

 “It was an exciting race because I led for awhile and then my team­mates passed me,” Sawyer said. “It’s scary when you see you’re getting passed, but then when you see it’s someone in blue, you know you can play off each other.”  

This per­for­mance by the Chargers earned them 23 points which put them only .66 points behind Tiffin heading into the final event. 

The women’s 4‑by-400m relay, made up of sophomore Alanna O’Leary, and freshmen Judith Allison, Jillian Roney, and Dakota Stamm, just had to beat Tiffin to seal the victory and they did by four whole seconds ending in 3:58.04. 

“We kept the focus on our per­for­mance and it came down to the last leg of the last event,” Towne said. “When Roney handed off to Stamm, we were right there. And then Stamm just broke that girl.” 

This per­for­mance gave the women their second indoor track G‑MAC Con­ference Cham­pi­onship title since joining the con­ference for the 2017 – 18 season. They won by a final score of 149 to Tiffin’s 147.66, a 1.33 point sep­a­ration. 

“I have never seen any­thing like it,” Towne said. “I don’t use this lightly, but from top to bottom it was the stuff of legends and it’s the kinda thing we will be talking about for a long time.” 

But a lot of ath­letes had to put in hard work throughout the two days to get to that cham­pi­onship moment. 

“When you win by 1.33, everyone matters and every single thing is important,” Towne said.

Sawyer won a G‑MAC title in the 5,000 meter run with a time of 17:38.17 the day before her 3000m race. 

“I felt really good about the race and it was fun to run with the other three girls on my team that did really well,” Sawyer said.  

She was fol­lowed by sophomore Claire McNally who ended fourth running 17:59.64. Taking fifth and sixth, were freshman Meg Scheske and sophomore Sophia Maeda, running 18:00.27 and 18:15.02, respec­tively. 

Sophomore Nikita Maines won another G‑MAC title for the Chargers with a new per­sonal best in the 20 kg weight throw (17.7 meters). Maines also threw for seventh in the shot put with a throw of 13.53 meters. 

Kajsa Johansson con­tinued her dom­inant season at the con­ference cham­pi­onship, winning the 200 meter dash for the second year in a row with a time of 24.76 seconds. 

“Her 200 meter run was incredible,” Towne said. “I bet you there’s not five people in the country who can do what she did there.”

She’ll have a chance to compete against the rest of the nation at the NCAA Division II National meet next weekend in this event, as her title-winning time from Sat­urday was fast enough to qualify her for the meet.

“What helped me perform well was trusting the process and staying moti­vated throughout the season leading up to con­ference,” Johansson said. “I felt so proud of my whole team, every indi­vidual con­tributed so much to the team as a whole.”

Johansson also took third in the 60 meter dash, with a speedy time of 7.61, breaking her own school record in that event.

In the field, sophomore Michaela Burkhauser threw 16.63 meters in the weight throw and ended fifth all con­ference. She also ended fifth in the shot put (13.77 meters), earning more points toward the Charger victory.

Freshman jumper Emily Gerdin triple jumped 10.98 meters to end fourth, and took sixth place in the long jump with a mark of 5.37 meters. 

Back on the track, many of the dis­tance stars from the 3k doubled up on events. Depies ran the mile to end third with a time of 5:04.45, while Lewis earned fourth place running 5:05.18. 

Riley ran for third in the 800 meter run with a time of 2:15.95, and junior Calli Townsend ended sixth in the 800 meter run, running the race in 2:18.59. 

“I’ve been sur­prised with how quickly [Riley’s] developed for a freshman,” Towne said. “We relied on a lot of freshmen this meet, but what we put her through this meet was really tough, espe­cially for a freshman. She was impressive.” 

Another solid freshman per­for­mance came from Stamm, who placed second in the 400 meter run with a time of 58.07 and fifth in the 200 meter dash in 26.33. 

Roney ended her first indoor season sixth in the 60 meter hurdles with a time of 9.21. She also took eighth in the 60 meter dash with a time of 7.92 seconds. 

Allison ran for eighth in the 60 meter hurdles with a time of 9.54 seconds. She also com­peted with Stamm in the 400 meter run and ended eighth (1:00.49). Junior Carmen Botha took fifth in the 60m hurdles with a time of 9.20 seconds. And O’Leary took bronze in the 400 meter dash with a time of 59.08 seconds.

The dis­tance medley relay, made up of junior Megan Poole, sophomore Amber Mango, freshman Allison Nimtz, and senior Addison Rauch, also snagged fourth all con­ference with a time of 12:45.42. 

Overall, Towne said he could not have been more proud of his ath­letes and the heart and strength they showed throughout all he asked of them over the two-day period. 

“I was thinking on the ride home from the meet, I’ve never heard or seen any­thing like that meet,” he said.  

The Chargers will send Johansson and Maines down to Birm­ingham, Alabama on March 13 and 14 to compete in the NCAA Division II Track and Field Cham­pi­onships, while the rest of the team begins to prepare for the upcoming outdoor season.