MARQUETTE, Mich. – The Northern Michigan women’s cross country team has placed another season in the books. The Wildcats raced in seven races in 2011 and had freshman Larissa Halonen named all-region after finishing 21st at the NCAA Midwest Regional at Ferris State University.
“Overall I think we had a great season,” NMU coach Jenny Ryan said. “We had some highlights and good results from a fairly young team. We improved a ton from last year in almost every race and moved up quite a bit at conference and in the region.”
Northern had two seniors as Nora Kiilunen and Olivia Juntila finished their careers. “Both Nora and Olivia had great careers even though they didn’t have their best days at the end of the season,” Ryan said about her seniors. “They are great leaders and great people who have a bright and promising future.”
The ‘Cats started out the season at the Upper Peninsula Opener at Michigan Tech with a second-place finish on Sept. 2. Senior Nora Kiilunen led the ‘Cats with a second-place finish and a time of 20:01. Sophomore Mandy Dye (4th), junior Rita Woitas (5th) and senior Olivia Juntila (6th) rounded out the top 10 for NMU.
NMU also finished second at the Northland College Invite in Ashland, Wis. on Sept. 9. The ‘Cats had 40 points, just one point shy of first-place. Woitas was the top finisher for NMU in fifth. Halonen was seventh, Kiilunen was eighth and Dye was tenth with five other ‘Cats finishing in the top 20.
Halonen received an 11th-place finish as NMU’s top runner at the St. Olaf Invitational (Sept. 17) with a time of 23:16. Northern finished fourth out of 16 teams on the day. Kiilunen (15th) and Woitas (17th) were the other two Wildcats to finish in the top 20 for the day.
On Sept. 24, the ‘Cats traveled to St. Paul, Minn. to race at the nation’s largest cross country meet, the Roy Griak Invitational. NMU finished fourth out 22 teams in the Division II women’s race. Halonen once again led the ‘Cats, finishing 22nd with a time of 23:17.4. Dye was second on the team in 30th (23:30.4).
NMU hosted its only meet of the year on Oct. 7 at the NMU Golf Course. The ‘Cats finished in second-place as Chelsea Farquhar led NMU in fourth-place with a time of 23:49.0. Halonen finished three seconds back in fifth and Dye (23:58.2) was sixth. Six other ‘Cats finished in the top 15 as redshirt freshman Katie Granquist, junior Marie-Helen Soderman, freshman Olivia Howard, sophomore Jordyn Ross, Woitas and Kiilunen finished in spots 10-15.
The ‘Cats finished in eighth-place at the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championship on Oct. 22 after a 10th-place finish in 2010. NMU tallied 180 points for the event which was hosted by Ashland University. Halonen once again led the way for NMU, placing 25th with a time of 23:40.26. Four other ‘Cats finished in the top 50: Dye (40th), Granquist (42nd), Farquhar (45th) and Woitas (47th).
NMU concluded its season at the NCAA Midwest Regional hosted by Ferris State University. The Wildcats finished 11th overall with 277 points. Halonen was named all-region after finishing 21st with a time of 22:52.4. Dye was second on the team in 41st-place (23:30.6) and Granquist was 45th (23:34.4). NMU finished 15th at the regional in 2010.
“I’m really excited about the future of the program,” said Ryan. “I have five of my top seven runners returning and eight of the top 10 and then a top recruit from a year ago who was injured this year. This year’s group with another year of training will also be faster and I have three recruits that I’m working on getting.”
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