MARQUETTE, Mich. – The Northern Michigan University cross country team returns eight of its top 10 runners from a season ago and has strong newcomers, giving NMU Coach Jenny Ryan a lot to look forward to in 2012. The Wildcats begin the season Friday, Aug. 31 at the Michigan Tech Opener.
The top two runners from last year return in junior Mandy Dye and sophomore Larissa Halonen. Dye is a captain and two-time letter winner for the ‘Cats. She placed 40th at the GLIAC Championships and 41st at the NCAA Regional. Halonen finished 21st at the NCAA Regional and 25th at the GLIAC Championship. Both runners were also recognized for their academic success, being selected by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCA) as 2011 Division II All-Academic runners.
Seniors Rita Woitas, the other captain, Kristen Fjedlheim, Brittany Loomis and Kelsey Noah, along with juniors Mallory Celaya, Alicia Romano and Jordyn Ross and sophomores Emily Allen, Chelsea Farquhar, Felicia Gesior, Olivia Howard, Caitlin Keskey, Abby Roche add experience and depth to the roster.
Celaya was redshirted a season ago and is coming off a strong track and field season. Ryan is looking for her to improve and be a top runner for the team.
Junior Evelyne Ruiz and freshman Megan Edic are two of the eight newcomers who have a proven track record. Ruiz ran at Mount San Antonio College and Edic was the 4A Alaska State Champion in 2011.
Sophomore Elizabeth Simek and freshmen Alex Bott, Hannah Boyer, Jaylee Brown, MaryKate Civelli and Catherine Swiderski will also compete for the Wildcats.
Ryan has added two coaches she will count on to improve her team. Paul Ewbank is an NMU graduate who adds strength and conditioning experience. Brenda Salisbury will help with running form.
NMU has eight races on the schedule. After the race in Houghton, the ‘Cats travel to the Midwest Collegiate Opener (Sept. 8) in Kenosha, Wis. for a preview of the same course as the NCAA Regional at the end of the season. After a week off, the ‘Cats will travel to the Northwood Open (Sept. 22) to run the same course as the GLIAC Championship on Oct. 20. The annual Roy Griak Invite (Sept. 29) is the nation’s largest cross country meet on the following weekend. The lone home meet will take place at the NMU Golf Course on Oct. 12. The season will then conclude with the conference championship and the NCAA Midwest Regional (Nov. 3).
The NCAA has added an extra slot for each region to send a team to the NCAA Championship. The Midwest Region will have the chance to send five schools to championship on Nov. 18 in Joplin, Mo.
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