Great individual efforts added up to an excellent team triumph for the NMU women’s outdoor track and field team in the spring season opener.
The Wildcats earned first place with 266 points at the five-team Sherman-Lukoski Invite held on Saturday, March 27, at Ripon College. Finishing second was St. Norbert College with 162 points. NMU head coach Tom Barnes said the team performed above his expectations.
“The team’s attitude was great. I didn’t expect us to dominate so much, but we do have a good team,” he said. “When we get out of our conference, we can see the difference because our conference is tough, and it makes us tougher also.”
Senior Krista Squiers won the hammer throw with a new NMU record throw of 171 feet-06 inches. That throw ranks her at No. 3 in NCAA Division II and Barnes said he is confident that Squiers could qualify for the national tournament.
Three of the top four discus throwers were Wildcats, with Squiers throwing for first (127-02). Senior Angela Leckson won the shot put (40 1/2) and the javelin (117-04), where Squiers placed second (113-03).
The ’Cats took the top three places in the 100-meter dash with sophomore Catherine Angeli clocking at 12.89 seconds, junior Brittnee Balbierz at 13.11 and freshman Alyssa Erspamer at 13.34. Angeli, Balbierz and Erspamer also swept the top three in the 200 with respective times of 25.95, 26.77 and 27.48.
Balbierz said the outdoor 200 has a different feel than the indoor 200 because of differences in the track.
“The outdoor 200 is easier because you have a longer straightaway and you’re able to accelerate and maintain your speed better,” Balbierz said.
The Wildcat 4×100-meter relay team won their event with Erspamer, Balbierz, Angeli and freshman Becky Rotter clocking in at a combined time of 49.96 seconds.
In the 4×400, the Wildcat relay teams placed first and second, with the “A” team of Angeli, senior Erin VanEnkevort, senior Maegan Hendershot and Rotter posting a time of 4:16.13. Barnes said the performances in both 4-person relays were outstanding, but that there is still room for improvement.
“We could work on our handoffs a little bit, especially, in the 4×100. They did really well for the first meet, so (the handoffs) should improve,” Barnes said.
Hendershot said the baton handoff is the most critical part of the race because the person receiving the baton has a short distance to do so, and they aren’t really looking at the person handing the baton off.
“If you don’t get the baton within the two triangles, your team is disqualified,” she said.
Freshman Brooke Granquist and freshman Colby West took first and second place in the 400-meter hurdles with respective times of 1:12.53 and 1:14.44.
In the 100-meter hurdles, sophomore Bailey Franklin placed first at 16.19, with redshirt freshman Stephanie Hahn in fourth at 18.70. Franklin also won in the triple jump (36-03) and the high jump (5-04 1/4). Barnes said Franklin did really well, especially in the triple jump, and he is expecting her to perform consistently all season.
“She’s won the league triple jump every time she’s competed,” he said.
VanEnkevort was victorious in the 800 at 2:25.41 and Hendershot was not far behind in second at 2:28.70.
Junior Kristen Schulz was first in the 3,000 steeplechase with a time of 11:49.02.
Hendershot said that as a senior she wants to be a positive role model for her younger teammates.
“(The freshmen) look up to you, so if you stay positive then they’re going to exhibit that too, and it will make everyone run better,” Hendershot said.
Barnes said the first meet of the outdoor season was a little chilly, but he believes the weather will be better for the next competition, and that different weather favors different runners.
“The cold’s not good for the sprinters, but for the long distance runners, it’s not too bad,” he said.” For the sprinters, the heat’s fine, I think it’s actually a little better.”
The next competition will be the Ferris State Bulldog Invitational on Saturday, April 10, in Big Rapids, Mich.
Barnes said that every competition builds on the last and that the team’s training should peak in time for the GLIAC Outdoor Championships May 5-7.