Track and field ranked No. 21 nationally

Laura Conway

The Wildcat women’s track and field team started its 2011-2012 indoor season off successfully after placing well in three NCAA events.

Assistant coach Kevin Kean said that this is the fastest track to success the NMU program has ever been on.

“It has been our most successful pre-winter break season; all the work leading up until break has paid off,” Kean said. “Of the three meets we competed at, we have five athletes provisionally qualify for nationals.”

Leading those qualifiers is senior Bailey Franklin, who holds the school record for the high jump, triple jump, 55-meter hurdles, and the pentathlon, provisionally qualified in both the pentathlon and the high jump for nationals at the end of the season.

Even though she’s happy with how she finished, she still has a lot of work to do.

“I won our first meet at home. I’m happy about that and qualifying but it’s early in the season and I can improve my results,” Franklin said.

Other provisional qualifiers are senior Melissa Christensen in the pentathlon, sophomore Sherice Hewett in the triple jump, and sophomore Jaime Roberts in the pole vault.

Missing a qualifying time by 0.01 seconds was freshman Angelina Howard in the 60-meter dash.

The coaching staff said it isn’t worried about Howard qualifying because it’s early on in the season.

“Angelina could get it at any race coming up; she is so close,” Kean said.

Hewett is another athlete gaining success and high speeds this season. Even though she has success at the high school level, she was asked to redshirt her first year. Kean said that they wanted to perfect her skill before they unleashed her on the competition scene.

“We knew she was capable of success at the Division II level,” Kean said. “Last year as a training redshirt freshman we had the opportunity and luxury to test her skills, develop her on a full year plan and not have it interrupted by competition.”

Having to go through a whole year training and not competing was mentally tough for Hewett.

“Redshirting was a little difficult because I really wanted to compete; I had to push every day and give it my all during training,” Hewett said. “I had to keep in mind throughout all last season that when I came in this season as a team member I was going to come in ready.”

At a December competition in Duluth, Minn., Hewett got her first chance to finally compete at the NCAA DII level. She jumped 39-0.25 meters; farther than she’d ever jumped before.

“It was the farthest jump for a freshman in DII, in her conference and in her career,” Kean said. “She was actually only three inches short of Bailey’s school record.”

Hewett said she ended up getting more than just a personal record and a provisional qualification out of that jump.

“After the meet, NCAA named me the GLIAC Women’s Indoor Track and Field Athlete of the Week,” Hewett said. “I couldn’t believe it. All the hard work during my red shirt season was paying off.”

Also stepping up early in the season was Roberts who just last weekend cleared a meet winning height of 12-1.50 feet at the Badger Track Classic. This is a considerable increase from December when she provisionally qualified for nationals by clearing only 11 feet.

The team heads to Madison, Wis., to compete as the only DII team amongst several DI teams on Saturday, Jan. 21. Hewett said that the team is really looking forward to competing up to the higher level of the big schools.

“It’s our biggest competition yet, we really have to step it up,” Hewett said. “I want to see what I can do against DI athletes. This is awesome, that we are that good that we can compete with DI athletes.”