The NMU Women’s cross country team finished out their season with a 13th place finish out of 19 at the Great Lakes Regional Championships. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, it was not the way they had hoped to end the year.
“It wasn’t their best day; [it was] a little disappointing finish over all for the team, but we had some highlights in there,” head coach Jennifer Ryan said. One of the team’s highlights was their first finisher, Olivia Juntila, in 36th place overall. Juntila was the fifth freshman overall in the race, running the 6K course in a time of 23:52.
Other top runners for the women included freshman Rita Woitas who finished 4th for the team and 84th overall in 24:53 and Junior Kristen Schulz who finished 5th for the Wildcats, 86th overall in a time of 25:08.
“The girls all ran the best they could the hardest they could and they all gave it everything they had, it just wasn’t the best day,” said Ryan. The day was hardest on the seniors.
The seniors on the team some bad luck at the meet. Senior captain Bibiane Mahy was battling Bronchitis-like symptoms while senior captain Jenny Wiedmeyer was also just getting over an illness. Wiedmeyer came in 2nd for the team, 62nd overall in 24:23. Mahy finished 3rd for the ‘Cats and 75th overall with a time of 24:40.
Ryan commented that these girls gave it everything they had but, “It’s hard to refuel when you’re sick.”
Mahy was very emotional.
“I was sad to be done, the time definitely flies by way too quickly,” she said.
Grand Valley State University won the meet, followed by Southern Indiana and Ferris State in 2nd and 3rd respectively. Those three teams will go on to compete in the National Championships. While the ‘Cats did defeat a tough Wisconsin Parkside, they were beaten by rival Michigan Tech, who finished in 12th place.
Overall, Ryan feels that the team had a pretty outstanding season.
“[The girls] are definitely in better shape and learned a lot more about racing. They’re stronger, they’re mentally tougher, and they ran well together as a team,” Ryan said. Next year Ryan would like to really focus on the psychological part of racing, like visualization and mental training. Ryan also hopes to move up in both Conference and Regional standings, which the team feels is possible.
“We have a tough conference, but nobody out there is unbeatable,” Mahy said.
In order to help the team in accomplishing their goals, Ryan is counting on her returning upperclassmen Kristen Schulz and Nora Kiilunen to lead the pack.
“I expect them to continue to help lead the team. They’ll move the team forward,” said Ryan. She also expects this year’s freshmen and sophomores to train hard this summer and push the team forward next year as well.
Ryan has also been paying attention to high school senior runners.
“I’ve been looking through all the state meet results and have a few athletes coming in on official visits. The top U.P. racer is going to come and take a visit . she runs some really respectable times, so she could be able to step in and help the team,” Ryan said.
Mahy has hope in her team that they will do well in the future.
“The season went pretty well, we had some strong freshmen that came in and contributed to the team as well as some of the returning upperclassmen. They have a great future ahead of them, I know they will do well,” said Mahy.
While the team is sad the season has ended, they now start training to compete in indoor track. Ryan hopes the girls will compete hard and be well prepared for the next cross country season.
“I’m proud of the girls.they ran as hard as they could. We were a little disappointed in our [Regional] finish, but we just keep looking forward and moving ahead year to year,” Ryan said.