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The Hillsdale College Women’s Cross Country team took 23rd place in the NCAA Nationals race on Nov. 20 in St. Leo’s, Florida. Freshman Liz Wamsley fin­ished 55th with a total time of 21:41.1, fol­lowed by freshman Abby Scherer, who took 128th place with a time of 22:30.1.

“I think we were all just very excited just being there and racing at it,” Wamsley said. “We’re all, for the most part, inex­pe­ri­enced with Nationals, so that was an inter­esting opportunity.”

Although it wasn’t the team’s best per­for­mance, junior Claire McNally said, the women put in a lot of effort on the course.

“Con­sid­ering a lot of the factors, I think it was a solid showing for our team,” McNally said.

The course itself was dif­ficult. From the start, the women had to run up a big hill that quickly nar­rowed. Running through the narrow part of the course was scary, McNally said.

“I was running next to one of my team­mates, Vera, and right next to us we saw someone get shoved into the fence and fall over,” McNally said. “I thought I saw Vera stum­bling so I reached down and grabbed her hand. It was just for a moment then I let go.”

On top of the dif­fi­culty of running uphill, the racing con­di­tions were muddy and hot. Wamsley said she even saw several runners fall over during the race.

“In the beginning, it’s kind of a battle of getting into position,” Wamsley said. “It was a little muddy at some parts, so that was frus­trating because you have to slow down a lot around turns when it’s muddy. The second half of the race was really gritty because it’s just a lot of hills.”

Despite the unde­sirable running con­di­tions, the Chargers embraced the chal­lenge by prac­ticing mental toughness, McNally said.

“Another one of the goals was just for all of us to be really men­tally tough during the race,” McNally said. “That’s one of our goals for every race, is to treat every race almost as if it was a Nationals meet and go out and compete with that tough mentality.”

This race was the first Nationals race for many of the Chargers, including Wamsley. 

“It’s a learning expe­rience and we were just really happy to even get that expe­rience at all,” Wamsley said.

Now that the season is coming to a close, team members will have more free time, some of which they will use for team bonding.

“We nor­mally have one day after the season where we all get together and play bas­ketball, which is pretty fun because for a bunch of dis­tance runners, we’re all really, really ter­rible at bas­ketball,” McNally said.

Looking back on the season, head coach Andrew Towne said the team was one of the most hard­working groups he’s seen in Hillsdale’s cross country program.

“They really com­peted when they had to,” Towne said. “I don’t know that we’ve ever had a team that com­peted as hard as they did when the stakes were as high as they were.”