Students studying in the library.

Long Runs and Long Nights: A Portrait of the Cross-Country Team

Written by Colby Clark

On any given evening, it is impossible to venture into the library without encountering the men and women of the cross country team dutifully at work, even as their legs protest all the miles they have braved that day in pursuit of athletic excellence. Their territory is well marked—for as long as I have been a student at Hillsdale, the large tables near the periodicals have been their preferred domain.

The runners have a focused demeanor as they study, but their work is always punctuated with laughter. Their ability to remain joyful while burning the midnight oil for a ten-page paper (even after rising before the break of dawn for a ten-mile run) is invigorating. But whether they are running or studying, their activity provides a context for the bonds they form with one another: deep friendships being molded in the mutual struggle to become better athletes, students, and people.

Nathan Jones, a captain and senior member of the cross country team, is well-acquainted with the daily migration from the roads to the library.

“It’s always kind of fun at dinner when the question will come up, ‘Who’s got a table at the library?’” he says. “It’s sort of expected that someone will get there because it’s a good time to get work done but also have fun and continue to grow closer with your teammates.”

This type of accountability also serves as an opportunity to induct freshman runners into the Hillsdale tradition. The circle of friends gathered at the study table can serve as an advisory panel, something Jones cites as critical for helping underclassmen adapt to the demands of being a Hillsdale student-athlete.  

“We always tell our freshmen that if they ever need help with a paper, math homework, or just need advice on which professors to take, that somebody on the team can help them out,” he says. “I think it really brings the team together when you’ve been through a lot of similar experiences and you can rely on an older kid’s experience.”

More than anything, the daily meetings in the library help alleviate some of the burdens that inevitably stack up as the season and semester reach their climax.

“As distance runners, we are always in season, so that can become a bit of a grind as the year progresses and classes become difficult,” Nathan explains. “It’s great knowing you have teammates who are or have taken classes you are in currently whom you can lean on for help.”

These bonds of friendship between members of the cross country team can also be found in other student groups on Hillsdale’s campus. The challenges students encounter here yield a common experience produced as shared joys and hardships intertwine to weave a tapestry of growth. And if the cross country team is any indication, the library is an essential furnace where such bonds are forged.

Colby ClarkColby Clark, ‘18, is a psychology major from Stevensville, MI. He loves playing drum set, and loves playing air drums on his trek to class. His daily schedule is always accompanied by the perfect soundtrack. On breaks, he enjoys hiking through national parks and traveling the country (as much as possible on a college kid budget). He ends most days sprawled out in a comfy armchair with his slippers on, reading by candlelight.