COLUMN: Eagles cross country program defining dominance

Zane Clodfelter

Quietly, there are two Southern Indiana athletic programs that continue to have a run of dominance in the Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC). They don’t garner as much attention as they deserve, but the success accomplished by these teams has never happened before on this campus.

USI Head Coach Mike Hillyard and the men’s and women’s cross country teams have dominated the GLVC for the last ten years, and their team resume backs that up.

The men’s team won its ninth consecutive GLVC Championship and were led by the GLVC Runner of the Year, Johnnie Guy. Guy’s sophomore campaign has already surpassed his stellar freshman season on campus, and his time of 23:46.00 in the GLVC Championships came within three seconds of  breaking the all-time school record set by GLVC and USI Hall of Famer Jim Nolan.

The women continued their dominance as well, winning their fifth GLVC title in the last six seasons, totaling 56 points and topping second-place Wisconsin-Parkside by 19 points.

The Eagles run of success is not only stellar – it’s legendary. Year after year, Hillyard has the difficult task of replacing All-American runners, and time after time he delivers freshman and transfer students who make the transition process easy and painless.

If you are a runner in the GLVC and want to win a title, you know the title quest runs through USI. So far, no one has even come close to taking that trophy away from the Eagles.

Hillyard added to the sweep of GLVC honors of the Eagles, by winning the men’s and women’s GLVC Cross Country Coach of the Year honor for the 17th and 18th times respectively.

Over the last 10 years, both cross country programs combined have won 70 percent of the titles awarded by the conference, finishing in second the other 30 percent of the time. This run is extraordinary and must be recognized.

Don’t be surprised if the Eagles continue their impressive pace of running this weekend in the NCAA Division II Midwest Region Championships in Somers, Wis. Hillyard and the Eagles’ scheduled invitational meets based on other teams’ participation in the event throughout the regular season. USI was able to get a better idea of opponent habits from observing tendencies in previous meets. The Eagles also benefited by competing week in and week out against Division I opponents.

Before the USI runners advance further with the NCAA Division II Championships, take a step back and soak in the dominance that the USI cross country program has already been able to accomplish.

The university’s athletic success amongst all of its NCAA varsity sports is impressive, and one could argue that the flag bearer of the program, right now, would be cross country.

I would agree, this run of success is an amazing feat.