Lady ’Cats ready for sunshine season

Cody Boyer

The Northern Michigan track and field team is keeping an eye on the sky as they move forward into the remainder of the outdoor season, hoping for good weather as they wrap up the year.

The Wildcats have only five competitions left before the GLIAC Championships. The first meet takes place this weekend, Saturday, March 31 at Oshkosh, Wis., after taking a week away from competing.

Head coach Tom Barnes said the team has a good start, with many athletes ranking highly in their individual events.

“With the team starting so well, it gives everyone incentive,” Barnes said. “We are all working hard together, and that shows some serious possibilities. They all go out until they fail and support each other. That’s how this sport works.”

The Oshkosh Invitational follows some of the ’Cats’ appearances at the Aztec Invitational in California. Barnes said the team is excited to be competing as a whole while also being near home.

“The Oshkosh meet will be full of good competition,” Barnes said. “Some of our own level of competition will be there, and we will be looking for some good performances in every event.”

Following events at Oshkosh, the ’Cats will be continuing in Wisconsin at the St. Norbert Invite. The meet will take place on Thursday, April 5 in De Pere, Wis. With the location of the meet closer, Barnes said the team is ready to perform close to home.

“St. Norbert will be a smaller meet than what we are used to, so it should be a really good sort of meet,” Barnes said. “The easier trip should really work well with the athletes. We should also start hitting peak performances around that time, and that will set us up for the future.”

The ’Cats’ next meet will begin at noon on Friday, April 20 at the Al Owens Classic in Allendale, Mich. Events of the meet will also take place on Saturday, April 21. Barnes said the team will focus on getting used to the track at Allendale, with the GLIAC Championships taking place there later.

“It really helps to get familiar with the ground,” Barnes said. “Getting used to the same place with Championships coming up is a better way to get some really good times and keep improving them.”

The team is going into the remaining season with many athletes ranked in top 10 spots in the nation for their events, with three qualified for Nationals.

Redshirt freshman Sherice Hewett provisionally qualified and is currently ranked No. 2 in the triple jump nationally. In the pole vault, sophomore Jaime Roberts also provisionally qualified, ranking fourth in the country.

Barnes said other events specific to outdoor competitions are also something to watch for, such as javelin throwing, the steeplechase and discus.

“The different events that we get outside should be promising,” Barnes said. “[Junior] Mariah Beaman will have a good season at javelin. Same with the discus throwers, and everyone is excited to work at these events.”

Senior Bailey Franklin, currently ranked No. 1 in the nation in the high jump, is an automatic qualifier for Nationals. Franklin said, now that she has qualified, she is able to focus on the team’s goals for the rest of the season.

“Our biggest team goal would have to be finishing higher at our GLIAC meet,” Franklin said. “We also want to send a few more people to Nationals. Our team is different from most teams in that we have goals that aren’t sport-related. We strive to have one of the best team GPAs and to be the kindest team, so we work hard off the track, too.”

Barnes said the team has scheduled an appearance at the Drake Relays on Friday, April 27 in Des Moines, Iowa. The GLIAC Championships start on Wednesday, May 2 in Allendale, Mich.

Despite what the weather brings, Barnes said the outlook for the team is good all-around and he encourages everyone to watch the team for the performances they will bring.

“Our athletes will always go out there and do their best, no matter what,” Barnes said. “Everyone is pretty well-rounded in all of the events. The results take care of themselves.”