Cross country finishes in 3rd place

By Rhema Rhea

Cross country came out of the blocks sprinting during its season opener, notching a third-place finish out of 14 teams during the ninth annual Forest Park Festival race Friday in St. Louis.

In her first career run in cardinal and black, freshman Kelsey Hildreth earned a second-place finish out of 136 runners and smashed the program’s 5K record in the process.

Hildreth’s time (17:20) was nearly 47 seconds better than that of previous record holder Courtney Oldenburg (18:07.81), who set the mark two seasons ago.

“I think Kelsey was pretty impressive,” said head coach Greg Hipp. “She went straight to the lead and decided she was going to lead a girl that was sixth-best last year in the U.S. for the steeplechase. That’s a lot of confidence for a freshman.”

NIU finished in third place behind Missouri-Columbia, which claimed first place, and Arkansas State.

Junior Courtney Frerichs, of Missouri-Kansas City, was the overall event champion, breaking the tape at 16:55.

Senior Meghan Heuer also beat the previous NIU 5K race mark, clocking in at 18:01 to finish in seventh place of 136 racers.

Junior Ali Olson was the next NIU distance runner to cross the finish, clocking in at 18:40 for a 16th-pace finish.

Freshman Lorena Martin ran the race in 19:02. Taylor Perkins joined the Huskie finishers, breaking the tape at 19:35. Carly Pederson rounded out the NIU finishers, registering a time of 20:16.

“The girls were pretty aggressive early,” Hipp said. “That was good to see and was nice to see that confidence. We just have to see that carry through to the middle of the race. A lot of the girls finished the race strong, so we left a little bit out there in the middle, but that’s to be expected during the first race.”