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.”