The NMU women’s cross country team finished seventh out of 12 at the GLIAC Conference Championships on Oct. 24. Each runner had an improved time on this 6K course.
“The girls had a great performance; they ran fast, but our conference is very tough,” said head coach Jenny Ryan. “[Our conference has] a lot of good teams, and the girls all ran their fastest 6k times this year.” The runners had an average improvement of 45 seconds on the race.
Senior captain Bibiane Mahy was the team’s first runner, coming in 34th overall with a time of 23:36. Freshman Olivia Juntila was the team’s second finisher, 35th overall in 23:37. NMU’s third runner, Kristen Schulz was 36th overall in 23:40. Jenny Wiedmeyer finished 4th for the team, 49th overall in a time of 24:00.
“It was really nice to be able to work together and push each other. We all had different parts in the race where we were stronger so that helped to push us all [through the race],” said Schulz.
Freshman Rita Woitas also had a big race. Woitas finished 5th for the team, 52nd overall in 24:17. Her top five finish secured her a spot at the Great Lakes Regional Championships.
“I improved since the first 6k race, that’s all you can ask for is improvement,” Woitas said. Woitas’ strong finish landed her a spot for the regional race.
“I can only run seven runners at regionals and the seats were pretty much set from where they’ve been all season, but that number seven spot was still pretty much open. Rita ran a good race so she put herself on that team to go to regionals in two weeks,” said Ryan.
Accompanying Woitas to the regional championships are Mahy, Juntila, Schulz, Wiedmeyer, Sarah Allen and Nora Kiilunen. Three alternates will also be attending: Cara Crawford, Katherine Holway and Megan Hendershot.
In order to succeed at the regional meet in Kenosha, Wisc. on Nov. 7, Ryan would like for her girls to run just a little faster.
“If everybody runs even ten seconds faster, that would definitely move us up quite a bit [in the finish],” Ryan said. Ryan also feels that because the girls have run on this course before, the seniors numerous times, that they may have an advantage.
“The course is a little bit hillier at regionals, it is more to our type of running. This course we were at for conference was completely flat. I think at regionals that will definitely help us,” said Ryan.
The ‘Cats will compete against 18 to 23 teams at the Regional Championships. Most schools from the GLIAC will attend, along with most teams from the Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC). Northern Kentucky, one of the teams from the GLVC, defeated the ‘Cats previously in Kenosha, Wisc. and is one team that Ryan thinks will be good competition for her girls. She feels that most of their competition, however, will come from the teams in the GLIAC.
“The other conference is not quite as strong,” said Ryan, “but four of the teams in our conference are ranked in the country.”
Woitas also commented on their competition.
“We have a tough region but we want to put it all out there and give it our best shot,” Woitas said. Ryan hopes to finish 7th or better at regionals. If the team were to finish in the top 4, they would then qualify for nationals in Indiana.
If a top 4 finish is not accomplished, the girls will get a break from training before they start back up for indoor track, in which all of the runners compete.