MARQUETTE, Mich. – The Northern Michigan University indoor track and field team is looking to continue its success as one of the strongest teams in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in the 2011-12 season.
“I think we’re going to have a little better season this year than we did last year and we had the best team in Northern track history in 2010-11,” NMU track and field coach Tom Barnes said. “Our goal is to finish second in the conference and in the top 20 in the country.”
During the 2010-11 indoor season, the ‘Cats were ranked as high as No. 17 in the nation, third in the region and broke 11 school records. The squad also had the best finish in school history at the GLIAC Track and Field Indoor Championships in third place.
“We lost some real good athletes last year but gained some good athletes,” Barnes said. “We’re still improving to be a better team this year.”
The ‘Cats return 13 sophomores, eight juniors and three seniors.
The field athletes will be led by Bailey Franklin who returns for her senior year. Franklin was an All-American in the triple jump last season, finishing seventh at the NCAA Championship. She was also 11th in the high jump at nationals. Franklin holds the GLIAC record in the triple jump and NMU records in the 55 hurdles, high jump, triple jump and pentathlon.
“Bailey has a chance to be an All-American in two or three events,” said Barnes.
Sophomore Jamie Roberts brings her pole vaulting experience back after a phenomenal freshman year. She qualified for nationals during both the indoor and outdoor season and was an All-American in the outdoor, finishing third in the nation. She holds the NMU record in the event.
Junior Brooke Granquist is another experience field athlete who will bring a lot to the table. She competes in the pentathlon, high jump and triple jump. At last year’s GLIAC Championship, Granquist finished fourth in the pentathlon and fifth in the high jump.
Sprinter Catherine Angeli was ranked in the top five in the region in the 60m and 200m dashes last season and returns for her senior year along with a group of young athletes. Angeli finished second in the 60 at GLIACs last year and holds the school record in the 60 and 200.
“Catherine could qualify for nationals in all of her events,” coach Barnes added. “She looks strong in the 400 as well as the 60 and 200. She will team up with Sherice Hewett, who is a national caliber athlete, and Angelina Howard, another freshman who is looking very strong, in some relays.”
The distance runners will provide another key component to the indoor track team. Most of the cross country team will run track and will be led by assistant track coach Jenny Ryan who also coaches the cross country team.
“There’s a whole group of young runners that had a good cross country season and will add to our track team,” Barnes said. “We didn’t score a lot of points in the distance events last year but we want to improve on that this season.”
Top distance runners will be senior Nora Kiilunen, junior Rita Woitas, sophomores Chelsea Farquhar and Katie Granquist and freshman Larissa Halonen.
This year’s captains are Franklin, senior Melissa Christensen, Angeli, junior Stephanie Hahn, Kiilunen and Woitas.
The Wildcats will compete in eight meets before the NCAA Championships on March 9-10. The multi-athletes open the season at home for the NMU Pre-Holiday Multi (Dec. 9-10). The rest of the team starts the season on the road the next day (Dec. 10) at the St. Scholastic Open. Grand Valley State will host the Holiday Open on Dec. 16.
The ‘Cats open 2012 at Madison, Wis. for the Badger Track Classic (Jan. 14). The following week (Jan. 21), the team will participate at the LSSU Open in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. On Feb. 4, after a week off, NMU will travel to Stevens Point, Wis. for the Pointer Invitational. The ‘Cats will travel back to GVSU on Feb. 10 for the Big Meet. Before the GLIAC Championships, NMU will host the NMU Open (Feb. 17) and the Northern Challenge (Nov. 18).
“We have a real good schedule this year,” said Barnes. “It’ll be nice to have two home meets. We want to showcase our facility and grow a tradition of having a good meet here in the Superior Dome. Our track is fast and coaches and athletes love that.”
The GLIAC Championships will take place in Findlay, Ohio on Feb. 24-25 and the NCAA Indoor Championships will be held in Mankato, Minn. on Mar. 9-10.
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