The NMU women’s cross country team traveled to Kenosha, Wisc. this past weekend where they finished ninth out of 16 at the Midwest Collegiate Championships.
“[Overall] we ran a good race, not a great race, but I think we still have some work to do,” said NMU head coach Jennifer Ryan. “But the plan wasn’t to be as fast as we could right now, it was to be the fastest at the end of the season.”
The ‘Cats were unable to meet their goal of finishing in the top five teams. Part of the reason they did not do as well as they’d hoped was because of the high level of competition present at the meet.
“It was very hard, good competition,” said Ryan. “There were five Division-I schools there, [making it] much tougher than it’s ever been in the past. Usually there are only one or two Division-I schools there.”
Some of the D-I schools present were University of Louisville, West Virginia University and Marquette University, who finished first through third, respectively. One high point for the NMU team was that despite having been ninth overall, they were fourth among D-II schools.
“We didn’t do as well as we would have liked but it was definitely still a good performance,” said freshman Olivia Juntila, who finished 61st overall with a time of 19:49 over the 5000-meter course.
Bibiane Mahy was the ‘Cats leading runner, coming in 42nd overall with a time of 19:30 on the 5000-meter course. Jenny Wiedmeyer was the team’s second finisher, coming in 46th with a time of 19:33.
Other top finishers included sophomore Nora Kiilunen, 64th overall with a time of 19:57 and Sara Allen, 66th overall with a time of 20:00. Megan Hendershot, normally one of the team’s leading runners, was unable to compete this week due to a foot injury. Ryan is hopeful Hendershot will return for the team’s next meet.
The top 12 NMU runners will head to St. Paul, Minn. on Saturday, Sept. 26 to compete at the Roy Griak Invitational. There will be between 20 and 25 schools at the invitational.
“That will be a big meet too, [and it will] give us more experience. [It’s] another hard race,” said Ryan.
Ryan hopes to move up on the team’s 15th place finish at last year’s Roy Griak meet.
“Finishing in the top 10 would be a pretty good performance, top five would be excellent,” said Ryan. She is counting on her usual top finishers to lead the team to at least a top-10 finish.
In order to accomplish their goal, Ryan said the girls need to really push their work ethic.
“The girls need to work on pushing themselves through that middle part [of the race]. They tend to get a little relaxed and then they really push at the end, but you need to be able to push through the entire race,” she said.
Ryan also told her team at their last meet to work together but to be sure not to rely on each other.
The team will be doing some harder training in the next couple of weeks in order to work on these aspects of the race and to get ready for the upcoming home meet and the Conference Championships, Ryan said.
While the focus remains on upcoming meets, one of the team’s season goals is still to qualify for Nationals.
“The team hasn’t been to Nationals in a few years, so that’s the biggest goal of the year right now,” said Juntila. “We have to do well in conference and in regional’s before we can do that.”
She also feels that running against rival Michigan Tech is also a good way to prepare for Nationals. While the women defeated Tech two weeks ago, Tech came back and beat the ‘Cats this past week.
“They’re in our conference and we can judge our performance by how they do,” said Juntila.
The women will return home on Oct. 9 for the U.P. Championships, the only home meet of NMU’s season.
The meet will be held at the new NMU golf course in Chocolay Township and will begin at 3 p.m.