Hillsdale fin­ishes second at Mount Pleasure (Photo: Hillsdale College Ath­letics)

Although nearly every fall varsity sport has been offi­cially can­celed for the semester, the Hillsdale College men’s and women’s cross country teams will train and compete this fall.

“These are def­i­nitely trying times,” Assistant Cross Country Coach R.P. White said. “I try to put myself in the shoes of the student-ath­letes missing out on fall com­pe­tition and it def­i­nitely would be a tough pill to swallow.”

He said it will feel weird to be a part of the only fall sport com­peting on campus. 

“It will be dif­ferent coming home from a meet on Sat­urday and not having a football game to look forward to, or a vol­leyball match to pop into during the week,” White said.

Senior Christina Sawyer said she’s remaining opti­mistic about the upcoming season. 

“It’s def­i­nitely a huge blessing to have the oppor­tunity to compete,” Sawyer said. “As we lost our outdoor track season last spring, I def­i­nitely feel for all of the other fall ath­letes at Hillsdale who are not getting this chance.”

The NCAA Division II has can­celed its national and regional cross country cham­pi­onships, as well as removed all regional and national rankings for the year. The teams can compete only for the Great Midwest Ath­letic Con­ference title and at invi­ta­tionals.

“From year to year our program objec­tives are always con­sistent: to be a podium team at the NCAA cham­pi­onship,” White said. “Since the national meet is can­celed, we have to find a way to nav­igate this obstacle while still trying to make progress toward our overall objective.”

Sawyer said the Chargers will make progress toward that objective by vying for the con­ference title in October.

“As the defending cham­pions, I would say that we likely have the best shot at bringing home the G‑MAC title this year,” Sawyer said. “And that is def­i­nitely what we are aiming for.”

Senior Maryssa Depies is also hopeful about the team’s chance to win another G‑MAC cham­pi­onship. Hillsdale College has been a part of the con­ference since 2017, and this past cross country season, the men’s team placed second at the con­ference cham­pi­onship and the women’s team took first place.

“With many of our same runners returning from last year, we are striving to earn back-to-back con­ference titles,” Depies said. “The oppor­tunity to compete has moti­vated and encouraged the team to con­tinue to work hard and prepare, like we always have, for upcoming races.”

The men’s and women’s teams grad­uated three seniors each, while the men gained four freshmen and the women gained three.

“They are all really good fits for Hillsdale College and our team,” White said. “They will add to the culture and pursuit of excel­lence we always strive for.”

Senior Mark Miller says he is ready to compete as a rep­re­sen­tative for all the other fall ath­letes who are unable.

“I am sure that the other student-ath­letes whose sports were can­celed are frus­trated and would rather have the ability to rep­resent them­selves in their own sport than to watch a small group of men and women rep­resent the entire school through a couple races,” Miller said. “With that being said, I am going to think of their sit­u­ation to drive my training over the next couple months.”

Although numerous changes have been made across all of campus, junior Adam Wier said that the team focuses on each day and each race. 

“The mission for our team is always to rep­resent the dili­gence of our insti­tution by the per­for­mances we give on race day,” Wier said. “As shown by the pan­demic, any race could be your last, so we intend to be grateful in our oppor­tu­nities and ded­i­cated in our efforts.”

After losing its outdoor track season and stum­bling into an uncertain fall semester, the Hillsdale cross country program has still per­sisted. 

“I’ve learned through every adversity or set back, there is always some­thing pos­itive that can come of it,” White said. “It isn’t always clear or easy to see. Even if it gives these ath­letes a deeper appre­ci­ation for being a college athlete and a sense of grat­itude to compete, that is a pow­erful new per­spective they can hold for them­selves and to share with others.”