Cross Country Gets Recognition — National and regional rankings boost confidence

Training is a key factor for success in any sport, and now the Albion College men and women’s cross country teams are starting to see theirs pay off.

The women’s cross country team find themselves ranked eighth in the region this season—the first time the women have been regionally ranked. On the men’s side, the Britons have cruised into a national ranking as the 34th best team in the country. Given the addition of a strong freshmen class and returning veterans, there are optimistic predictions for the future.

“I’m excited to see their hard work pay off,” said Hayden Smith, head coach of both teams for his eleventh year. “We’re fortunate.”

Abby Hess, Dexter junior, captain of the women’s team, said of their success, “Practice has been going much better. We have fewer injuries, and more people have been finishing workouts.”

However, Smith said he has not altered his practice routine.

“A few athletes do some additional work to the norm, but for the most part we stick to the same plan as in the past.”

Runner Paul Lewis, Albion sophomore, attributed the success to an increase in rigor at practice.

“Our practices have been…vigorous to say the least. On top of the workout set up for us, we as a team are a competitive bunch, which only leads to everyone pushing each other to work harder, so all of our workouts are pretty intense.”

With stronger teams in the men’s region, and five out of 35 regionally ranked teams running on the woman’s side of competition, future success rests on strong veterans and promising freshmen.

“The men will be in a competitive situation with Hope to gain 2nd in the MIAA,” Smith said. “As far as returning to the national championship, there will be five or six schools close for two or three qualifying places. We’ll be in that group.”

“We’re fortunate to have veteran leadership and a group of freshmen who have worked hard and have run well from the start,” Smith added.

Hess also attributed the teams’ success to an impressive freshmen class.

“We did a good job recruiting last year so we have an extremely strong freshman class, and I think that has made a big difference as far as our team results,” she said.

Lewis said that camaraderie plays a key role as well.

Being on a cross country team is like having a second family; being together non-stop for two hours a day brings everyone really close,” Lewis said. “You’re not only racing for yourself, you’re racing for the rest of your team. There’s no offense, defense, timeouts, sub-ins. All of us are out there at the same time. Together.”  

“I’d go as far to say that on the pace we’re at, we will be returning to nationals,” Lewis added. “It won’t be easy, but we’ll be there.”

Photo courtesy of Hayden Smith

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