Cross country set to improve in 2011

Jon Young

Featuring a familiar roster from last season after losing only four seniors, the NMU women’s cross country team is set to start their 2011 campaign.

The Wildcats finished 10th in the GLIAC championships last year and head coach Jenny Ryan said the first goal is improving the team’s conference standings.

“Our goal is to move up from last year and to actually finish top five in the conference,” Ryan said. “I definitely think we’ll surprise a few people.”

The GLIAC is one of the tougher running conferences in the country and it showed as three GLIAC teams finished in the top 10 of the Division II National Championships last year, including champion Grand Valley State University. Junior Olivia Juntila said this years incoming freshman and summer training program will help NMU’s conference standings.

“All of the girls that are returning will certainly help us be more competitive in the GLIAC,” Juntila said. “They have all trained hard this summer and are excited for the upcoming season.”

Ryan sent her athletes home with a summer training schedule. The first half of the summer they worked on long-distance running before switching to more hills and speed work during the second half.

“We’re really excited for this year and we have a great group of young athletes returning and new athletes,” Ryan said. “We’re definitely looking forward to a great year.”

The Wildcats finished 15th at last year’s Division II Midwest Regional Championships. They also were recognized for their hard work in the classroom by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association as they received an All-Academic Team award. Northern finished with a team GPA of 3.49.
Juntila said the team hopes to maintain its high academic and compete at a higher level.

“Ultimately, we strive to compete and run to the best of our ability while maintaining our high academic performance, and of course having fun,” Juntila said. “We are also hoping to place higher at our conference and regional meets.”

The ’Cats get their season underway at 3 p.m. Friday, Sept. 2, as they travel to Michigan Tech to compete in their tournament. The Huskies carry a preseason rank of 10th in the Midwest Region. Friday, Sept. 9, at 4 p.m. NMU travels to Ashland, Wis. to compete in the Northland College Invite. Northern will have their only home meet of the year on Oct. 7 as they host the U.P. Championships.

Juntila is hopeful that NMU will compete in the GLIAC with a strong incoming freshmen class and returning runners.

“The GLIAC is pretty notorious for having a very competitive distance running program,” Juntila said. “But I think this will be a very promising year for NMU.”