Track and Field squad begins outdoor season

Junior+track+and+field+distance+runner+Abby+Fifarek+looks+to+build+upon+last+season%E2%80%99s+success+and+earn+multiple+individual+records+this+spring+at+Northern+Michigan+University.%0APhoto+by+Lindsey+Eaton

Junior track and field distance runner Abby Fifarek looks to build upon last season’s success and earn multiple individual records this spring at Northern Michigan University. Photo by Lindsey Eaton

Nate Bellville

After a long, cold winter, Wildcat cleats pound into the thawing ground

A strong start to the outdoor season was what the Northern Michigan Women’s Track and Field team preached this past Easter weekend.

NMU’s first outdoor meet featured an impressive overall performance at the Raleigh Relays in North Carolina. The team finished third out of eight teams at the St. Norbert’s College Twilight Meet in Wisconsin.

“In both meets, we definitely had good early season performances, even though their times aren’t that fast yet,” head coach Jenny Ryan said. “Overall, I was happy with their competitiveness in all their events.”

Senior distance runner Kieren Becker said the team enjoyed their first outdoor trip.
“It was a great bonding experience, even though we were in a van for 17 hours, but it was also a great opportunity for us to push ourselves and reach your best time without someone ahead of you,” Becker said.

Senior Ine Mylle was surprised the team contended mightily after the long trip down.
“I think we did great,” Mylle said. “Honestly, I didn’t think any of us thought we were going to do that well, just because of the long travel.”

Out of eight schools competing at St. Norbert, the Wildcats dominated the sprint events, placing in the top two in both the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes. Junior sprinter Jenna Long returned home in style, sweeping victories in both races, and earning three total victories.

NMU swept the top six spots in the 200-meter event, following up in order after Long was freshman Izabelle Peterson, sophomores Meghan Martin and Abby Christmas and freshmen Nina Augsten and Lauren Alarle.

Augsten fed off of her impressive indoor track debut with a victory in the 100-meter hurdles, timing in at 15.19. Freshman Dunja Drobac also claimed victory in the triple jump, reaching a height of 35 ft. 0.5 inches on the high jump.

“It was okay. Even though I seeded first, I believe that I can do better,” Drobac said.
Sophomore distance runner Katelyn Smith captured the 3,000-meter run individual victory, finishing with a time of 10:51.08. The final team victory came in the 4×100-meter relay, led by Christmas, Alarle, Long and Peterson, clocking in with a time of 48.67 seconds.

The eight Wildcat athletes competing in the Raleigh Relays faced top NCAA competitors. Junior Michelle Juergen tied for fourth in the high jump at 5 feet 3 inches, just three inches shy of the top mark.

History was almost written after junior Lynsey Collins clocked in at the second-best time in school history in the 400-meter hurdle, finishing in 1:05.46 and placing 25th place overall. The 4×400-meter relay squad of Collins, sophomore Sydney McPeters, and juniors Paige Dutcher and Shayla Huebner notched 13th place overall with a time of 3:52.58, which is now the second-fastest time in school history in the event.

Becker said those school records could be broken at any time.

“It’s a good sign to be that close to some school records, and I think some will definitely fall throughout the semester,” Becker said. “We have some returning record-holders, and some new athletes that can step up and challenge those records as well.”

The team is back on the road this weekend as they travel downstate to compete in the Spartan Invite at Michigan State University in East Lansing, starting Friday April 6 through April 7. The weather is forecasted to be bleak, and runners will need to be in peak physical shape to avoid cramping.

Ryan said she expects the team to brace the elements in the next meet.

“It’ll be another meet to get some races under our belt. It’ll be chilly again, but we’ll be ready for that same type of competition like it was down in St. Norbert,” Ryan said.