The Hillsdale College Women’s Cross Country team took 7th in the NCAA Division II Midwest Region Cross Country Championship in Evansville, IN, on Nov. 6.
After receiving an at-large bid, the team heard on Monday night that they will advance to compete in the National Championship in St. Leo, Florida. This is the eighth straight NCAA Championship berth the Chargers have earned, dating back to 2013.
“Everyone surprised themselves, and everyone surprised each other, and as a team, we surprised the whole nation,” junior Meg Scheske said.
Freshman Liz Wamsley finished 7th with a total time of 21:07.01, followed by Scheske, who finished 27th with a time of 21:42.5.
“I knew I just needed to replicate what I did at the G‑MACs, and I think that worked out pretty well,” Wamsley said.
Head Coach Andrew Towne said that the team’s performance at their previous race made it easier to prepare for regionals.
“We started the race aggressive, knowing what’s on the line and not being scared of that,” Towne said. “I thought that was really impressive.”
Scheske said each of her team members raced according to her abilities.
“Our coach was kind of like, you guys have it in you, I know you do, I’ve seen it at practice, now, I just need you guys to do it,” Scheske said. “Every girl that was racing had locked-in eyes, like they were engaged, they were ready.”
According to Scheske, the team started the race fast. In the second half of the race, the Chargers kept passing other runners and got negative splits, which is when a runner finishes a mile in less time than she took to finish the previous mile.
“The last kilometer is where most people feel it the most,” Scheske said. “I passed, I want to say, five or so girls in the last kilometer. It was just really exciting, when you’re at that point where you can’t even really think, you’re so tired. The feeling of passing someone just spurs you on.”
Throughout the race, Scheske said she didn’t know where she ranked, but knew she needed to place 25th to get an all-regional title. From the sidelines, her coach yelled out that she was currently ranked in the low 30s, which she said gave her a boost of confidence.
During a moment where she struggled to stay motivated, she said she felt encouraged after spotting Wamsley in the distance, fighting for a top spot.
“I could see Liz battling it out with the top girls, in the top 10, and that was really cool because I was like, if she is up there, then I can be here. Speed up. I had this wave of admiration for her that also fueled my own race,” Scheske said.
As the team prepares for the Nationals race in Florida, Wamsley said she hopes to replicate her performance the past two weeks.
“I think, if I can again run the way I did at G‑MACs and Regionals, that I have a good shot at that,” Wamsley said. “Beyond that, I just want to enjoy the opportunity to race at Nationals and to run a beautiful race.”