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The women’s cross country team poses for a picture
Courtesy | Meg Scheske

Starting their season on the right foot, the Hillsdale College Womens’ Cross Country has been training hard in antic­i­pation of their first meet, the Calvin Knight Invite, which will be on Sept. 4 in Grand Rapids. 

According to head coach Andrew Towne, the team is pre­pared to run against a greater number of com­pet­itive teams, many of which are returning after pausing for COVID last season.

“For us it’s always just about excel­lence and making sure that we’re doing every­thing we can to be as suc­cessful as we pos­sibly can, whether that’s a cross country course or the classroom,” Towne said.

In races, the women will be focusing on the pack method. Pack running, which is running close together, means that fewer oppo­nents have the oppor­tunity to break up the group and take away con­sec­utive rankings.

“You cer­tainly want to have a really good front runner,” Towne said. “But then, how strong can your pack be?”

The runners are coming into the new season with a summer’s worth of training under their belts. Junior Meg Scheske, a returning runner, spent her summer training in Col­orado, making the most of the chal­lenge that comes with running at a high elevation.

“Me and mul­tiple other girls on the team are feeling really strong right now,” Scheske said. “A race will be the real test of, where are we at as a team?”

Though the team hasn’t had their first race of the season yet, the women have already bonded through many team tra­di­tions, including a sleepover and a goal-setting bonfire.

One tra­dition the women use to motivate them­selves during races is to yell R.H.O., which stands for “Rip Heads Off.” The phrase rep­re­sents the fierce men­tality a runner must assume during dif­ficult moments of a race.

“It’s just because with cross country, it can be this interior mental game with this quiet intensity,” Scheske said. “It started as a joke… but then it became an actual thing that we say.”

Now entering her junior year, Scheske said she’s looking forward to sharing her wisdom and expe­rience with younger runners.

“I just feel like you’re never quite ready for the next stage of life,” Scheske said. “In terms of men­torship to the other ones, that’s some­thing I feel very pas­sionate about, espe­cially in a sport like cross country that requires so much of you physically.”

Freshman Abby Scherer said she appre­ciates having older runners like Scheske on the team to guide her in her first season on the team.

“I kind of took some of the younger high school girls under my wing and helped mentor them in lead­ership, so it’s nice now being a freshman being men­tored instead of being the mentor,” Scherer said. “It’s been very hum­bling in the fact that these girls are so com­pet­itive and very hon­oring to each other.”

Looking ahead to the first race, Scherer and the rest of the team aim to push them­selves to the max.

“There’s a lot of girls around me that have really helped push me, espe­cially in practice recently,” Scherer said. “I just want to take all the pressure off myself, espe­cially for the first race on Sat­urday, and go out there and see what I’m capable of.”