Track & Field team grabs podium spots in Minnesota before the “Big Meet”

Ryan Spitza

Fighting the cold and flu virus, a small meet was exactly what the Northern Michigan track & field team needed before heading to “The Big Meet” at Grand Valley State this weekend.

Despite leaving some team members in Marquette due to sickness, the team had strong finishes at the Lake Superior Challenge hosted by the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minnesota last weekend where just five female teams competed. Several Wildcats picked up individual race awards, most notably a sweep of the podium in the women’s 3000-meter run.

Sophomores Abby Fifarek, Caroline Arlasky and Kalina Pfannenstiel finished first, second and third in the 3000-meter run. Fifarek came across the line with a time of 10 minutes, 31.9 seconds, just over one minute ahead of Arlasky. Pfannenstiel wasn’t far behind Arlasky, rounding out the podium at a time of 11 minutes, 51.6 seconds.

Head Coach Jenny Ryan said that the meet was great despite being short-handed.

“It was definitely a successful trip,” Ryan said. “It was a great tune-up meet, great for the younger kids.”

In the 400-meter dash, Wildcat sophomore Shayla Huebner hustled across the finish line to take first place with a time of 58.78 seconds. Sophomore Paige Dutcher finished off the podium at third with a time of 1 minute, .87 seconds. Freshman Katelyn Smith took first place in the mile-run with a time of five minutes, 18.5 seconds. Sophomore Kelly Pietrzak also ran the mile and finished in eighth place with a time of five minutes, 34.09 seconds.

“I didn’t do very well mentally in the mile,” said Pietrzak. “I was able to recover and come back with a strong 800 and anchor the 4×4 relay.”

The team of Fifarek, Pietrzak, Smith and freshman Maddy Walters gave NMU a third-place podium finish in the 4×400 relay.

Senior weight throwers Jasmine Williams and Samanthia Johnson also went 1-2 in the weight throw final. Williams had a throw of 17.95 meters for a total of 19 yards while Johnson had a throw of 15.74 meters for 17 yards. Samara Tobeck of Bemidji State rounded out the podium with a throw of 14.22 meters.

Junior Avadon James finished third in the 60-meter dash, while Dutcher took third in the 200-meter dash.

“Competing like we did, not being at full strength, I was very happy,” Ryan said. The Wildcats travel to Allendale, Michigan for the Big Meet on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 10-11 for their fifth meet of the season, held at the Kelly Family Sports Center at Grand Valley State University.

Senior runner Anne Okonowski was one of the runners held back in Marquette last weekend and is confident going into the weekend at GVSU.

“I’m really excited to see how this weekend goes,” Okonowski said. “In the past I’ve always performed really well there. This is a really good meet to see where we’re at going into conference championships in a few weeks.”

Ryan knows the competition in Allendale will be tough.

“Our conference is really strong; there’s actually five teams in the top 25 in the country,” Ryan said. “Just seeing how we do this weekend then figuring out the little things to move on into the conference championships.”