The NMU Women’s Track and Field team traveled to Oshkosh with a purpose, and that was to improve times before the GLIAC and National Championships. The few selected athletes who participated for the ’Cats did just that, as they captured three victories, a school record and three NCAA provisionals.
The Wildcats placed fourth out of 14 teams in the Titan Challenge this past weekend, as both runners and jumpers shined at the meet. The 4×400 relay team consisting of juniors Sydney McPeters and Paige Du Bois, and seniors Lynsey Collins Shayla Huebner took first place with a time of 3:47.75, a new school record. The relay team also improved their provisional time, in which they are now are in eighth place in the NCAA.
Huebner wasn’t done on the day, as she had another impressive performance by winning the 800-meter run, which also improved her provisional time. With a winning time of 2:12.57, Huebner now holds the 15th fastest time in the nation.
Senior Michelle Juergen had success as well, as she placed in both the high and long jump. Juergen took home the high jump title with a jump of 5 feet, 7.25 inches, improving her provisional mark to 11th best in the country. She also took third place in the long jump with a jump of 18 feet, 6.25 inches.
In the 60-meter hurdles, sophomore Nina Augsten took second place with a time of 9.08 seconds. She also placed 14th in the long jump, with a leap of 16 feet, 10.5 inches. Junior Megan Martin also had a nice showing for the Wildcats, as she placed 30th in the 200-meter dash, finishing in the top half with a time of 27.53 seconds.
After a season of demanding practice sessions, but Coach Ryan says this week will be lighter, as the team is in their final preparations before the conference championships.
“We had a good training session [on Tuesday], the jumpers got a chance to jump and the track group had a harder workout,” Ryan said. “[Tuesday] is our last hard workout, we’re sort of tapering a little bit but still training. We’ll have an easier day Wednesday, and Thursday we’ll do a little bit of [light] stuff before we take off. We’ll get a chance on Friday to train at the venue in the afternoon, some pre-race intensity, but not too much so that they’re not fresh for the events on Saturday.”
Coach Ryan knows of the challenges that the GLIAC Championships present, but she is expecting her team to perform well.
“I think all around we have a chance to score some points in a lot of events,” Ryan said. “We’re looking to have our best performances of the year and get the best team score we can. As a team, we like to try and support each other and work together.”
The GLIAC is led at the top by Grand Valley State and Ashland, with the Wildcats looking from the outside in. But NMU has the underdog mentality this weekend, and are ready to show how tough this team is.
“I think we’re as tough as any of them [other teams]. We have to travel farther and with the crazy weather up here, we don’t always get the track [at the Superior Dome],” Ryan said. “Showing our toughness, our grit — that we might be underdogs but they don’t realize what we can do. We compete with heart. We’re strong as a team, mentally tough and we seem to always do really well in the big events.”
Although the team might be underdogs this weekend, coach Ryan’s team has had to overcome adversity in the past.
“Last year even being stuck at the bridge for 21 hours, we almost missed the meet,” Ryan continued. “But we got down there with not a lot of sleep and the team still performed well, so they’re tough. I’m going to remind them of that and that we can do bigger things than they realize.”
The championships will be hosted by Saginaw Valley State University, and the meet will take place on Saturday, Feb. 23, and Sunday, Feb. 24.
“There are strong teams in the conference, it’ll be tough,” Ryan said. “[We’ll need to] support each other and do our best in the individual events and put it all together and see what we can do.”