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.”