Cross country season finishes strong

By Rhema Rhea

Cross country ended its rocky season on a high note, having low times across the board during Friday’s NCAA Midwest Regional.

Head coach Greg Hipp was not pleased with the way NIU finished the MAC Championship Nov. 2 when the team placed 11th out of 12, but he felt the way the Huskies ran in Ames, Iowa, was a much better effort.

“I was proud of the way the girls finished here at the last one after a tough conference meet,” Hipp said. “We just need to build on the way we finished and start to understand what we are capable of and begin to run with a lot of determination and confidence.

“The standards for the team are starting to rise; that is when things can really start to break through in the next season or two.”

One of the top Huskie outings this year came Oct. 18 at the Bradley Pink Classic, when NIU finished 11th out of 24. Another good showing was the team’s top 5K outing, which came at ISU in the middle of September when NIU finished fourth of six and each runner improved her time over the home opener a week prior.

One of the weaker outings came when NIU traveled to Falcon Heights, Minn., to participate in the highly competitive Roy Griak Invitational. The Huskies finished 27th of 28.

A positive story that sticks out for Hipp came when NIU got after it in the Regional Championship.

“The race that I am most satisfied with is the regional,” Hipp said. “We can argue wither it was our best outcome or not, but … with the way the girls approached the first half of the race and just gave themselves a shot for something more meaningful, [that] was really what I wanted to see, that willingness to go for a bigger goal and put a little risk into their racing strategy…. The execution at the regional meet more so than just the outcome was the part that I was excited about….”

NIU will lose three runners to graduation: Alexis Capps, Claire McAuley and Juliane Totzke. Totzke has high hopes for the remaining Huskies and wishes them the best.

“Our team is definitely headed in the right direction,” Totzke said. “We had some ups and downs during the season, but we fought back from the downs. It’s all about developing the right mindset and improving with each season, and I think we showed that we are able to improve from last season.

“I’m looking forward to see where the team is going next year. I’m sure they are going to take some big steps. I know they are ready to do that.”

The top four finishers for NIU throughout the season were consistent: Jamie Burr, Ali Olson, Leah Raffety and Meghan Heuer.

Olson was the top Huskie finisher twice this season. She led the way when NIU traveled to ISU Sept. 13, taking 16th of 76 runners, and during the Roy Griak Invitational Sept. 28. Heuer was the lead finisher for NIU the final three meets, including a 45th-of-213 Regional finish.

Heuer said the return of the majority of the roster will bode well for next year.

“Of course it is sad losing Claire and Juliane,” Heuer said. “But it’s exciting pretty much getting all of the girls back for next season.”

NIU had a few runners on the roster who did not race at all during the season, or who were limited to the amount of races they could partake in during the year due to injury. Freshmen Chrissy Monson and Taylor Perkins are runners Hipp feels have a bright future.

“Chrissy was a state champion out of Minnesota, and Taylor Perkins was the No. 3 senior out of the state of Minnesota last year,” Hipp said. “So when those two kids are with us next year, that gives us a pretty big boost if they are able to work their way back and run to their potential. Those are going to be two really good newcomers for us next fall.”

Carly Pederson also saw action on the course, but the freshman still needs some experience.

The Huskies have a few weeks off before they return to training for the indoor track season.