MARQUETTE, Mich. - Some say that you can never go home again. But that does not seem to be true for Northern Michigan University cross country runner Olivia Juntila. A Marquette native she began her college education in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan. While at Michigan she realized some things were not that bad in Marquette.
In high school at Marquette Senior High School she was involved with cross country, soccer and downhill skiing. “I wanted a change from the Marquette area,” said Juntila. “I enjoyed it (Michigan), but I realized there were better places to live.” At Michigan she ran on a club team. According to Juntila in high school she did not take cross country that serious. It was after high school she decided to take running more serious.
Late spring (2009) she e-mailed Jenny Ryan, the head cross country coach at NMU, about either training with the team or trying to walk on. “I have known Olivia’s parents since I was an athlete at the Olympic Education Center in 1990,” said Ryan. “When she came to visit with me last spring, I told her that I didn’t allow athletes to just train with the team. She was welcome to walk on to the team as long as she followed the training plan I gave her for the summer and she followed all the rules of the team.”
At that time she realized that she wanted to be part of the team. She began her career at NMU as the number eight runner and during the season has moved up to the number three spot.
“Last year I realized how much I missed the team camaraderie and the competitiveness,” said Juntila. “I did not know if I could even make the team. It turned out that I could compete at this level and that was really exciting.” In her NMU debut, she ran a 20:46.2 at the Michigan Tech U.P. Collegiate Opener in late August for an 11th place overall showing. At NMU’s lone home meet, the U.P. Cross Country Championships, in early October she was the third ‘Cat to cross the finish line and fourth overall with a time of 19:36.6. Juntila was the second NMU runner to break the tape at the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) Cross Country Championships in late October with a time of 23:37.6.
Ryan has enjoyed having Juntila on the team and has seen many positive signs with her walking on. “Olivia has been a great person to have on the team since the first day she was involved,” said Ryan. “She came into the team and was very thankful to have a chance.” Juntila has also brought to the team a great attitude and is a very hard worker according to Ryan.
Juntila has enjoyed her time at NMU and is glad she made the switch to come back to Marquette. “I have loved every single minute of being at Northern. I did not even apply to Northern when I was in high school.” Her goals for the future do include going to medical school and coming back to the area to practice. She is enjoying her experience at NMU with a well rounded experience. Ryan also sees Juntila being a leader on the team in the future and becoming a top NCAA Division II runner.
Juntila has proven that you can come home again and be successful, happy and contribute. The perfect end to the story would be for Juntila to maintain her 4.0 grade-point average and becoming an NCAA Division II All-American in cross country.
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Sports Information Director