Two runners will represent the Brits at the NCAA Cross-Country Championships on Nov. 19. Andrew Bill, a first-year from Berkley, Michigan, qualified for nationals at the Great Lakes Regional meet on Nov. 12 and was only 12 seconds behind the second-place finisher, Jordan Kramer of Calvin College. Jessica Shaw, a senior from Allegan, Michigan, will represent Albion for the third time in four years and finished third in the Great Lakes Regional meet.
Bill leads the Brits in his first year
In his first season, Bill led the Brits to a seventh-place finish at the Great Lakes Regional meet, which was 12 places better than their 19th place finish in 2015. Bill’s finishing time was 25:13.6, which was about 36 seconds better than his season-best run of 25:49.7 at the beginning of October. Albion’s average time at the Great Lakes Regional was 25:52 which was about 45 seconds behind Calvin College, who took first place at the meet.
“My mindset is just to listen to coach, run my race, and if I run my race, All-American is within reach,” said Bill.
All-American is the highest honor an individual athlete can receive at the collegiate level, but Bill wants to make a name for himself right here at Albion.
“My goal for myself is to try to become the greatest distance runner Albion College has ever seen,” said Bill. “So far, I’m on the right path.”
Although the Brits missed making the national meet as a team, it hasn’t stopped Bill from looking toward the future. He wants to lead the team to nationals for the next three years, and he also wants to help the team continue to improve their placement each year.
According to Head Coach Derick Lawrence, the team will return all of its varsity runners, with Bill leading the way.
“The most exciting thing is [that] everyone wants to achieve their goals and is willing to put the work in to do it,” said Lawrence. “That culture has been building each year and is creating a standard for excellence for everyone.”
Bill prepped at Berkley High School, where he was league champion and an all-state runner in 2015. However, the transition has proved to be no match for Bill’s ability. Aside from the team qualifiers, Bill is one of four first-years this year to be selected as an individual runner for the NCAA Championships. As an all-MIAA and all-region selection this year, Bill attributes his success to his training and mindset during races to Lawrence.
“My training has been a lot more beneficial in college,” said Bill. “Coach Lawrence is a big believer in ‘train, not strain.’ So you aren’t going as hard as you can all the time, but you’re going to get where you need to be.”
In preparation for the NCAA Championships, Bill is making sure he is tapering, getting enough sleep and eating well. His ultimate goal is to make sure he feels good enough to run like he did at the conference or regional meets.
Bill and a lot of other young runners will be leading the Brits for the next three or four years, both on and off of the course. Of their 26 runners, only two are seniors. Their top runners consist of four first-years, two sophomores and one junior. According to coach Lawrence, Bill made the transition from high school to college quite smoothly and is continuing to learn about the sport.
“From the first day of practice to where we’re at now, he has continued to ask questions and learn,” said Lawrence. “He wants to be the best student-athlete possible. He’s very coachable and not only listens but executes.”
Shaw looking to end career on a high note
In her four years at Albion, Shaw has solidified her name as one of the best runners Albion College has ever seen. Her 52nd place finish with a time of 21:58.3 at Nationals in 2015 was the best in Albion College history. Her 21:40.9 finish in the Great Lakes Regional meet of 2014 is the fastest 6k time in Albion College women’s cross-country history and extended her school record even further.
“I’ve learned to use each day, run and race to my advantage, regardless of the outcome,” said Shaw. “That’s something I never would have fully grasped if it wasn’t for my dedicated coaches and my support system at Albion.”
For the National meet, Shaw says that her mindset is much different than it was the past two years. She has an increased confidence, knowledge, understanding and strength and hopes to keep her fierce mindset throughout the race. The goal for Shaw is to be an All-American, and through her past experiences, she can do just that.
“I want to be an All-American, I want to check off a goal I set for myself years ago,” said Shaw. “So many adversities in the past made my mindset complex and brittle, but I’ve accepted all that has happened and learned from it.”
Shaw said that she’s talked with Bill about the National meet. She told him that he needs to trust himself and listen to what Lawrence says, but also to enjoy every second of the race. Although it goes by fast, Shaw says there’s a feeling of “pure bliss” when you walk on the line at the National meet.
Coach Lawrence and Coach Klinger, Shaw said, have given her the ultimate atmosphere of success. Specifically, she says that Lawrence has dedicated countless hours to understanding, researching and planning the perfect training program for her. This atmosphere that the coaches created was one of the reasons she chose Albion.
“Coach Lawrence has helped me learn how to trust in my training, myself and to go to the line with confidence,” said Shaw. “When that gun goes off on Saturday, I’m running for the love of the sport, my coaches, team and my entire support system. Choosing Albion College was the best decision of my life.”
The NCAA Championship meet will be on Saturday, Nov. 19 in Louisville, Kentucky, at 11 a.m.
Photos courtesy of Albion Athletics.