A possible championship, a rivalry game, a new beginning over fall break
Fans play a huge role in sports. They are one reason sports are so popular in the United States and the reason outcomes of contests may not always be clear. Crowd support can drive a team to new heights. Over fall break Pioneer fans have the opportunity to witness a championship, a win over Walsh and the commencement of a new swim season.
Malone will host the Great Midwest Athletic Conference (GMAC) cross country championships Oct. 22 on campus at 9 a.m. Fans have the opportunity to witness Malone cross country’s quest to continue their tradition of excellence by winning the GMAC in a rare home meet.
“The Malone community should come support, because typically they can’t travel to our meets and watch us compete, so this is a great chance to come support the cross country team with unique circumstance of it being for a conference championship,” said Rachel Koons, junior cross country runner.
This is the first time Malone University is hosting a GMAC championship. Students will get to see their fellow classmates compete in a cross country meet in their backyard.
“We are ready to make a statement in the GMAC,” said Koons.
Pioneer students will get to help make that statement by cheering at the finish line and later that day on the football field. Supporters may also head to North Canton to watch the Pioneers take back momentum from that team up north (Walsh University), an opportunity to spoil the Cavalier’s homecoming.
“It’s a rivalry game. No different than Ohio State vs. Michigan or Browns vs. Steelers. Whenever you play a rivalry game you get a little excited. [It’s] always something special for all of our players. Hopefully we can make it a competitive game, make it where it’s a rivalry again,” said Fred Thomas, head football coach.
Under the direction of Coach Thomas, the team plays a lot differently than in years past, making this a must watch match.
“You’re going to see a good game, but you’re going to see a different Malone team than you have in the past, especially [at] this Walsh game. You’re going to see us hungry. You’re going to see a fun game and an exciting game. We’re going to bring home that trophy that we have not seen in a very long time,” said Jordan Johnson, junior cornerback.
Every year Malone competes for the Hall of Fame trophy, which is given to the winner of the football game between the two schools. The rivalry is steeped in tradition, but it is experiencing some change this year.
The Hall of Fame Trophy usually indicates where the game is played, the Pro Football Hall of Fame Stadium. With construction on the Hall of Fame Village, though, both Malone and Walsh have found new, temporary homes. This year, Walsh will host the game at North Canton’s Hoover High School stadium.
Pioneer fans’ support matters in the swimming pool over fall break as well. The team opens their season Oct. 21 at 6 p.m. This year’s Malone swim team features a lot of freshman who will be swimming in their first meet. They will need the support of the Malone community to know what swimming at home feels like.
“It’s the first [meet, so] it’s the freshmen’s debut. They’re going to be really excited and jacked to get into the water… they’re going to swim really fast because all the energy that’s around them,” said Olivia Bently, senior swimmer.
The swim team is embracing the youth and a temporary conference for the year before transferring into the GMAC. They have put in a lot of time in the pool and weight room and are looking to use a bigger roster and the young swimmers to outswim Mount Union in the season opener.
“These swimmers train four hours a day to bring pride to Malone University, and it feels really good to see the Malone community come out and support us,” said Hector Gonzalez-Espresati Fortes, swimming graduate assistant.
It’s a great time to see the pride these athletes show in representing Malone athletically. It is important for pioneer fans to cheer them on to a possible championship, a rivalry game and a new beginning for the swimmers.
Seth Byrd and Rob Elder are staff writers for The Aviso