The NMU cross country team defended its territory with a first place finish at the team’s only home meet of the season last Friday, Oct. 9. NMU won the meet with 23 points, Michigan Tech came in second with 32, Lake State was third with 87 and Finlandia finished last with 116 points.
“It was really fun to see them run so well . [we] finished strong and did great,” head coach Jennifer Ryan said. For seven runners, the meet was the last time they would compete at home. NMU’s seniors include Ingrid Fjeldheim, Christina Gillis, Megan Hendershot, Erin VanEnkevort, Jennifer Wiedmeyer and Danielle Stein. Captain Bibiane Mahy was sidelined for her last home meet due to illness.
The entire team ran strong last week, but one runner exceeded expectations, said Ryan. NMU Captain Jenny Wiedmeyer won the entire race for her first-ever collegiate win. Ryan was extremely proud of her runner.
“It was very exciting as a senior at her last home meet to win the race,” Ryan said. “She ran a very strong race and just pulled away from the field and won by 16 seconds.” Wiedmeyer finished the 5K race in 19:12, her best time of the season.
“I’m very proud of myself. I’m just happy that it was a Northern runner who won the home meet,” Wiedmeyer said.
Wildcat Junior Kristen Schulz also ran a strong race, finishing second for NMU and third overall in 19:30.
“[It was a] really good finish for her-probably one of her best races. I think she really realized that she can run right up there,” Ryan said.
Other top finishers for the ‘Cats included Olivia Juntila who finished 3rd for NMU and 4th overall with a time of 19:36, Sarah Allen, NMU’s 4th finisher, 8th overall in 19:51 and Nora Kiilunen, NMU’s 5th runner and 9th overall with a time of 19:54.
The ‘Cats have this weekend off before the GLIAC Conference Championships in Saginaw, Mich. on Oct. 24 where sixteen runners will compete from each school.
“The entire field is very tough and all of the schools in our conference have a really good distance program, so it’s going to be a very competitive meet,” said Ryan. Ryan hopes to place in the top three at the competition and feels like this is an attainable goal.
A few of those top competitors include Ferris State University, Wayne State University and perennial powerhouse Grand Valley State University. Hillsdale College, who defeated the ‘Cats at the Midwest Collegiate Championships in Kenosha, Wisc. will also be present. The team is hoping for a little revenge against the Hillsdale Chargers this time around. Ryan said that the women are running a lot stronger now than they were earlier in the season, so beating Hillsdale would be a great way to show off their new speed.
“I know with the way the team is running now we could finish in the top three. We’ve had a strong finish by everybody the last couple weeks, and I think they’re just getting to their potential and are going to run some of the fastest races at conference,” Ryan said.
“I think the team as a whole has improved, and I think that will make us stronger at conference,” Wiedmeyer said.
The competition at the Conference Championships is expected to be tight. Usually at a big meet, one or two seconds can equate to two, three or even four places when finishing. Ryan is counting on her top finishers to run strong.
“I just need them to run how they’ve been running. They’ve been running very strong and very smart,” she said. “[They need to] just continue what they’re doing and run like they have been and I think we will succeed.”