Cross country tops U.P. meet

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At the Michigan Tech’s U.P. Collegiate Open last Friday, NMU’s cross country team bolted its way to an opening day victory.

NMU earned 39 points to top the leaderboards, defeating MTU, Wayne State, Lake State and Finlandia.

The first Wildcat to cross the finish line was running in her first collegiate race; freshman Rebecca Holmquis, at 0:20:15 finished third overall.

“It was a small race, so I liked it, and I really wasn’t that nervous,” Holmquis said. “I thought I did very well actually, and I was surprised.”

The freshmen played a major role in this weekend’s victory, meriting two more top-ten finish with Erin McCulloch eighth, and Nora Kiilunen 10th.

“I think it was a good start to the season. For one, it was a tough course and it was the freshmen’s first college race, and they did very well,” head coach Jenny Ryan said. “That will be a stepping stone for us.”

More than likely, there will be numerous stepping stones across the path of this season as Jenny Wiedmeyer and Bibiane Mahy, the ‘Cats two top runners from last season, decided to redshirt.

Wiedmyer placed 31st at Regionals, leading the team, and Mahy finished 36th.

The two runners have one year of academics remaining and felt they could benefit from training, but not competing, this season, Ryan said.

“This year’s team might be a little slower, but we’ve had a few freshmen who stepped up-right at the top actually, and took over some spots,” Ryan said. “So I’d say this year we’re going to be as strong as last year. It will just be different, because we’ll have some new faces in there.”

Ryan added she would like to improve on their uphill speed this season and just grow as a team and work to better on individual results every week.

“Hopefully, throughout the races, we will have gained some experience,” Ryan said. “And the nice thing is that we do have the upperclassmen, and even the two that are redshirted are training with us.”

Sophmore Kristen Schulz said the reason last year’s team was competitive was the leadership of the upperclassmen and how they molded together at the end of the season.

“The best thing we had going last year was that we worked as a team, and I definitely think we have that going this year,” Schulz said. “But with the new runners we have here, hopefully we can go farther.”

In 2007, the ‘Cats took fifth at both the GLIAC championships and Regionals, but Ryan and her squad would like to see improvements in these bigger races for the benefit of the program.

“I think the last couple of years here we’ve gained more of a team atmosphere,” Ryan said. “They really want to improve, and they want to put in the work. And this is definitely a positive team that can be strong.”

On Friday NMU travels to Lake State. The competition will host the same teams as the past week with the addition of Ferris State.