The NMU cross country team dashed their way to early season success this past weekend as they finished fifth out of 22 teams at the Midwest Open in Kenosha, Wis.
“I think of our 18 girls who ran, we had 16 of them run [personal best times], so we are really happy with how we finished,” assistant coach Sten Fjeldheim said. “It’s a really good start to the year for us.”
The race was the first large collegiate meet for Northern’s freshmen runners. Last week, in the Wildcats’ first meet of the season, they competed in a dual meet against Lake Superior State University.
“I think they really rose to the occasion. It was the first experience for a lot of them running in a field of 260 girls and 22 teams; some of them probably were a little intimidated,” Fjeldheim said. “I think they handled it really well.”
Kyle Richards, a junior on the team, said that she is very impressed with how the freshmen have stepped up so far this season.
“I was worried coming into the season, seeing as we lost a lot of our top runners from last season,” Richards said. “But Sten and (head coach) Jenny (Ryan) have done an excellent job making sure that the freshmen are ready to go and are excited for the meets.”
The ‘Cats finished fifth overall with a score of 161 points; Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) foe Wayne State finished third in the meet, 44 points ahead of NMU. Marquette University won the meet with an overall score of 42. Fjeldheim said the team would have finished higher, but senior Laura Dewitt was sick and could not run.
Finishing first for the ‘Cats, and 22nd overall, was junior Bibiane Mahy who finished the four kilometer course in 18:56. Finishing just behind Mahy was Junior Jenny Wiedmeyer, who finished in 31st place with a time of 19:07. Freshman Kristen Schulz placed third for the ‘Cats with a time of 19:19.
Also scoring for the Wildcats in the meet were freshman Michele Bisig and junior Danielle Stein. Brittney Coehoorn, Erin VanEnkevort, and Kyle Richards rounded out the top eight for the ‘Cats.
“It was a really strong field this year, I finished 30 seconds faster than last year, but I placed 30 spots lower,” Richards said. “There were a lot more Division-I teams competing this year.”
Northern finished ahead of two of the three D-I schools competing in the meet, failing to beat only meet champion Marquette University.
The strong competition the team faced gave the Wildcats a chance to see where they stand in relation to a possible national championship berth come late October.
“We finished right behind Edinboro University who is ranked eleventh in the nation,” Fjeldheim said. “Right now I would say we are hovering right around number 20 in the nation. We need to move up to around 13th or 14th to make sure we get to nationals.”
The ‘Cats have an off week before traveling to St. Paul, Minn. for the Roy Griak Invitational on Sept. 29.