Cross country starting off on right foot

By Amanda Chaperon

The women’s cross country team is starting the 2011 season off and running at full speed. With a very deep team, composed of several talented returning athletes as well as a promising recruiting class, coach Jenny Ryan said she is very excited about what’s to come for her team.

“My team is very talented this year. I have some top returning athletes that trained very well over the summer and have definitely improved their fitness level,” Ryan said.

The cross country team’s top returning athletes include: seniors Nora Kiilunen and Olivia Juntila, junior Rita Woitas and sophomores Alicia Romano and Mandy Dye.

Top recruits of this year’s team include Mallory Celaya, a cross country and steeplechase athlete who transferred from Mt. Sac University in California, miler Larissa Halonen from Delano, Minn., and Olivia Howard from Muskegon, Mich.

NMU kicked off the season with two second place finishes and the Wildcats’ top seven runners finished within 30 seconds of each other. On Sept. 2 in Houghton, the girls finished behind the Huskies by one point and had 10 runners in front of Tech’s fifth place runner. On Sept. 9 in Ashland, Wis., they beat Tech but finished a point behind University of Minnesota-Duluth.

Ryan plans on increasing their speed workouts, and well as decreasing the amount of intensity and volume so the girls continue to run their fastest throughout.

“The important time for us to run our fastest is at GLIACs and Regionals, which are at the end of the season. Also, when we get up into the bigger meets, our team will be higher up in the standings because my top five runners are all so close in time,” Ryan said.

With captains like Kiilunen, Juntila, and Woitas, Ryan said the team is always positive and excited.

“Our team is based on communication and respect. We expect a good attitude and a good effort every day,” Ryan said.

Ryan said their next meet is their first big one of the year. In attendance will be 25 division II and III schools, and she said it will be their first big chance to see how they stack up against some very strong teams.

“This meet will build my athletes’ confidence to continue on a winning season,” Ryan said.

The ‘Cats next meet will take place at 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 17 in Northfield, Minnesota.