Online Exclusive: Women’s Cross Country Up Two Spots

Jon Young

Despite injuries and a sloppy course, the NMU women’s cross country team moved up two spots from last year, taking eighth place at the GLIAC championship last Saturday in Ashland, Ohio. Head coach Jenny Ryan said the course conditions slowed times down.

“The day before we got there it was like a lake on the course. It had dried up a little bit but it was still really soggy, uneven and muddy,” Ryan said. “It was definitely a tough race.”

The ’Cats were in position to finish higher before junior Rita Woitas suffered a sprained ankle. Woitas was in 30th place when she got the sprain but was able to recover and finish in 47th. The swing in points dropped the ’Cats from sixth place to eighth.

“We were only one point out of seventh and 15 points out of sixth, which is not very much in cross country,” Ryan said.

Freshman Larissa Halonen was the first to finish for the ’Cats in 25th place with a time of 23:40.26. She was the seventh highest placing freshman in the conference. Sophomore Mandy Dye was the second Wildcat to finish in 40th place with a time of 24:07.71. Redshirt freshman Katie Granquist finished 42nd at 24:13:66. Ryan said the team’s depth is the biggest difference from last season.

“We have a lot of runners who are running at a high performance,” Ryan said. “We have nine or 10 who have been running close to the same times. If someone doesn’t have a great day, someone else is there to pick them up.”

Along with having more depth, the Wildcats are getting major contributions from their younger runners; three of the top five performers have been freshmen. Ryan said the structure of the team bodes well for the future.
“It’s really a young squad,” Ryan said. “We’re looking forward to keep moving the whole program up in the next couple of years. We have a great start and a great group.”

The Wildcats’ next competition is the NCAA Regional on Saturday, Nov. 5 in Big Rapids, Mich. Last season, the ’Cats placed 15th out of 22 teams. Ryan said they hope to better their place this year.

“I think we have a chance to be in the top 10 at the regional, which would be an excellent finish,” Ryan said. “We’re peaking at the right time. The girls are excited and focused.”