The first Hillsdale College team championship of the Great Midwest Athletic Conference era rightfully belongs to the women's cross country team.
The Chargers made history Saturday in Nashville, putting together an outstanding top-to-bottom performance in capturing the G-MAC championship, held at Percy Warner Park and hosted by Trevecca Nazarene University.
Five runners finished in the top 10 overall in a dominating performance by Hillsdale, who easily won the conference meet with 29 points. Walsh took second with 47 points, followed by Malone with 67, and four-time defending champion Cedarville, who had 96.
"I'm really proud of our execution today," said head coach Andrew Towne. "The girls did exactly what we asked them to do, and now we will turn our attention to the regional meet in two weeks. We've accomplished goal number one."
Competing in the G-MAC was met with mixed results among Hillsdale's fans and alumni when it was announced two years ago. But the Charger women's cross country and track programs have more than proven themselves to be among Division II's elite since then, being named the national Program of the Year in 2015-16. Coach Towne, who won his second career conference coach of the year honor Saturday, has guided his teams to several podium finishes at the NCAA level, so it has nothing to apologize for in winning the G-MAC title in its first season in the conference.
The way the entire Charger team ran on Saturday, it would have done well against any competition. Seasoned veteran Hannah McIntyre was the individual runner-up at the meet, finishing the 6K course in 21:23.9, 10 seconds behind Walsh's Sarah Berger.
McIntyre was supported by the team's extraordinary freshman class, led by 2017 G-MAC Freshman of the Year Maryssa Depies, who took fourth overall with a time of 21:36.9. Depies has been a consistently strong runner for Hillsdale throughout the season, and it was only appropriate that in her first postseason meet, running for a team joining a new conference, that she would be so instrumental in a championship.
Sophomore Arena Lewis entered the meet healthy and ran like it, placing fifth overall with a time of 21:51.1. When Lewis is healthy, few teams have the depth to counter what Hillsdale can do on the course.
Freshman Christina Sawyer was terrific, taking eighth overall, crossing the finish line in 22:02.3 while junior Allysen Eads once again set a personal best in the 6K with a 10th-place time of 22:16.5.
How good was Hillsdale in this race? The team's sixth-best runner, freshman Kyleigh Edwards, took 15th overall in the meet. Take away McIntyre's second-place time and add in Edwards' finish, Hillsdale still wins the conference title.
Who knows what kind of history awaits this program. But with the coach of the year, the freshman of the year, a multi-time All-American and a determined supporting cast, the 2017 G-MAC championship is unlikely to be the only history this group of Chargers make.