Women’s cross country wins its first MAC championship


Northern Star file photo

NIU cross country Head Coach Adrian Myers talks to his team in 2019.

By Mike Knapp

DeKALB — Since Adrian Myers became the NIU women’s cross country coach, the program has achieved several firsts, and the program added another Saturday.

Traveling to Bowling Green State University for the Mid-American Conference cross country meet, the Huskies looked to improve on its runner-up finish from a year ago. Led by All-Conference performances from seniors Ashley Tutt and Mackenzie Callahan, the Huskies did that, scoring 84 points to bring home the first conference title in the program’s history.

The Huskies, who finished second to Eastern Michigan University by two points in 2019, squeaked by the University of Toledo with 87 points and Bowling Green, which was third with 90 points.

“This is what we said we were going to do from the moment I came in the door and as a coach, and leader of the program, I wanted to make sure that I was a man of my word,” Myers said in an NIU Athletics news release. “This was the right team at the right time, in a very challenging time in all of our lives. They showed a lot of grit and growth, and they really embodied the Huskie cross country experience, to come from the bottom of the conference to now bringing home a championship to DeKalb.”

Due to COVID-19, the Huskies only ran in two meets this season. On Nov. 7, on this same course, NIU finished fourth in the Falcon Invitational, which offered a preview of the conference meet since the field was composed of MAC teams only.

The Huskies had to battle throughout the six-kilometer, 3.73-mile course, as they sat in sixth place after one mile and in fourth place two miles into the race. But the Huskies finished strong, moving up to first place at the 3-mile mark and holding on the rest of the way.

Tutt, who won the individual title a year ago for the Huskies, led the way with a runner-up finish just 11 seconds behind Bowling Green sophomore Kailee Perry, who won the race in a time of 20:41. Callahan finished nine seconds later in third.

“Ashley has been battling some injuries all fall, some stuff we didn’t really talk about a whole lot, but we taped her up and held her together to get through and do what she needed to do for the team,” Myers said in an NIU Athletics news release. “Mackenzie stepped up in a big way, she always shows up when the lights are on, and that is something we count on from Mackenzie, so I’m really proud of her.”

Senior Sara Atkins finished in 23rd place, sophomore Brooke Lytle was 27th and junior Hanna Ricci finished 29th to round out the Huskies’ five scoring runners.

Myers, who has seen his program finish second, fourth, fourth, second, and now first, respectively, since 2016, was honored by his fellow coaches as the MAC Women’s Cross Country Coach of the Year.

The Huskies are done with the 2020 portion of its schedule, but there may be one meet left in its future, as the NCAA moved the Division I national championship race to March 15 in Stillwater, Oklahoma. With conference championships “holding the most weight in the selection process,” according to the NCAA website, the Huskies are in a good position to advance to the national meet.