NMU won its lone home cross country meet for the year on Friday at the U.P. Championships with a total of 31 points. Michigan Tech was second with 38, and Lake State finished third with 70.
Head coach Jenny Ryan said she was impressed with her team’s composure throughout the race.
“They ran a smart race. We’ve been working on pacing a little bit, and they all were smart about how fast they went out,” she said. “If you looked at the first half of the race, Tech was beating us, and by the end of the race we beat Tech by a lot.”
The first to cross the finish line in the race was Katie Scott from LSSU with a time of 19:32. For the ‘Cats, the top point-earners were all freshmen, with Nora Kiilunen in fourth (20:32.6) and teammate Rebecca Holmquist in fifth (20:33.8). Fellow classmates Stephanie Enderby and Erin McCulloch earned eighth (20:46.3) and ninth (20:46.6) respectively.
Ryan said this year’s freshmen have been a valued asset to the team, not only for the present, but for the future of the program.
“Well, [they’ve been] actually pretty surprising, I think. Those four that I recruited, I thought they would be at our number five, six, seven and eight spots,” she said. “They came in, and this race, they were one, two, three and four.”
This season, NMU added 11 freshmen to its 29-member roster.
McCulloch, a freshman from Kansas City, Mo., said she came to Northern because of the coaches and the change of scenery.
“When you’re running the same runs for four years (in high school), it’s the same atmosphere, and you’re living in the same place and sometimes you’re going to keep doing the same thing for the next four years,” McCulloch said. “So it felt like I had to go somewhere different.”
Holmquist, a fellow freshman, said NMU was the perfect fit for her.
“I really like the area,” Holmquist, a Trustin, Mich. native, said. “I was looking at schools like Eastern (Michigan) and nothing can compare to Marquette.”
When recruiting new freshmen, Ryan said she looks for runners who not only have solid times but like the location of Northern and aren’t intimidated by the weather.
“We have snow here — surprisingly — so they’ve got to be kind of tough in a way,” she said. “And you can tell that these ones do have that toughness.”
For freshman runners at NMU, the weather isn’t the only obstacle they have to overcome. They also have to fit in with Coach Ryan’s system.
“It seemed like the training that they do was really comparable to what I did in high school, and so the transition wouldn’t be too difficult,” McCulloch said. “I’ve never had to run on trails before. I’ve always had to run on pavement. (Running on trails) keeps it interesting. I don’t get bored at practice because I don’t have to run the same thing every day.”
Another hurdle for the freshmen is making new friends and teammates, but this hurdle seemed the easiest to overcome.
“The great thing about this team is everybody has been really welcoming and nobody makes you feel like you’re a freshman,” McCulloch said “Everyone mixes really well and they’re a lot of fun to be around.”
Despite the many transitions these freshmen have overcome, Holmquist said she still has difficultly juggling athletics and academics.
“It is so hard to get to sleep at night, and no one in the dorms wants to go to bed at 8 (p.m.),” she said. “You have to force yourself, and you just have to say no sometimes.”
A fresh future
These cross country freshmen are the new faces for the team and with them come many goals.
“Me, personally, I just wanted to come to a school where I’ll build a base and get stronger and faster,” McCulloch said. “I know that the coaches train us smart and they trained a lot of really high-caliber athletes. So I knew, coming here, that I’m going to be able to further my running career, maybe even after college.”
Ryan said she also has high