Wildcats take fifth at D-II Challenge


The Wildcat track team finished in fifth place in the Division II Challenge at Grand Valley on Saturday Feb. 7.

In addition to the D-II Challenge, the team also took part in an unscored meet on Friday.

Two of the most notable finishes were turned in by freshmen Bailey Franklin and Melissa Christensen, who finished 4th and 7th respectively in the pentathlon at the D-II challenge. The event consisted of the 60m hurdles, high jump, long jump, shot put and 800m run.

Head coach Tom Barnes said he was excited about the performances.

“They both did very well, that’s the first time they’ve ever attempted it,” Barnes said. “They’re getting ready to do this in our league meet, and I know they’ll improve.” Franklin finished with 3009 points, just 91 points away from the NCAA provisional qualifying score. “That was a really good first performance,” Barnes said.

NMU’s top thrower Krista Squiers also performed well at Saturday’s Challenge, taking 4th place in the women’s weight throw. Her distance of 16.61m was her second best of the season and third time meeting the NCAA provisional qualifying mark.

“That just shows she’s consistently going to stay in the rankings and consistently throwing well. Pretty soon she’ll get another real good [throw],” Barnes said. “She’s been very consistent, that’s a good thing.”

Squiers is currently ranked sixth on the list of potential national qualifiers.

Freshman Renee Hays, another thrower, also had success at Saturday’s meet, throwing a career-best 12.07m on her way to earning 13th place in shot put.

Catherine Angeli was a strong presence on the track for the Wildcats, taking 4th place in both the 200m and 400m races. Also bringing in points were Brittnee Balbierz (eighth in the 60m and 200m races) and Natalie Bertucci (fifth in the 60m hurdles and ninth in the 200m).

Barnes was also excited about Megan Hendershot’s 6th finish in the 800m run. “She ran a really good 800,” Barnes said, noting that Hendershot has been performing consistently all year long. “She’s ready to keep lowering her time, I think.”

Most encouraging of all to Barnes was the team’s fifth place finish on Saturday. Every women’s track team from the GLIAC participated, so the meet was a good indication of what Northern should be capable of at the conference championship.

Among GLIAC schools, the ‘Cats finished behind only Grand Valley, Ashland and Hillsdale. According to Barnes, the team’s finish is impressive given the competition.

“The teams that finished ahead of us are all in the top 10 [in the nation]. In our conference, you could finish fifth and still be in the top 25 in the country,” explained Barnes. “It’s a tough conference, but that’s the way it is. We like it that way.”

Northern is currently ranked 17th nationwide in a coaches poll of women’s D-II schools. Given the improvements and strong performances shown by the athletes last week, the team will likely move up when new rankings are released Thursday.

“It’s real exciting for the team to know that they’re nationally ranked,” Barnes said, noting that the team’s goal at the beginning of the season was to finish in the top 25.

As the GLIAC championship meet is just a little over two weeks away, Barnes is beginning to lessen the work load during practices and allowing the athletes more rest in preparation.

The Wildcats will travel to Duluth, Minn. this weekend for a meet at St. Scholastica, then rest for a weekend before making the trip to Saginaw, Mich. for the indoor conference championship on Feb. 27.

“We’re looking to keep improving [in Duluth], we’ll try a couple different things,” Barnes said, adding that having the following weekend off will be important to help the team rest for the conference meet. “We won’t be traveling [that weekend], so we can get rested up. I think we’re going to be ready.”