NIU boasts two top-10 finishers in opening meet

Five Huskies finish as top-15 runners in home race


Mingda Wu

Senior Brooke Valentine (right) keeps pace with a group of Northwestern Wildcats at the front of Friday’s race. Valentine was the fastest-finishing Huskie with a time of 19:19.28.

DeKALB — The NIU cross country team had a pair of top-10 finishers at the First State Bank Huskie Challenge to open the 2022 season at the North 40 Course Friday.

Seniors Brooke Valentine and Katelyn Robbins each crossed the finish line by the 20th minute of the race. Valentine was NIU’s fastest finisher with a time of 19:19.28 for seventh place. Robbins rounded out the top-10 finishers in 19:42:26.

Heat played a factor in Friday’s race as participants ran in temperatures of about 79 degrees with 71 percent relative humidity.

“It was good to start out,” Valentine said. “It was really hot but I think that we all pushed through. It takes some guts to run this course in this heat because it’s also a pretty hard course.”

A trio of Huskies — sophomores Olivia Southby, Joy Jackson and junior Carly Leonard — also finished in the top 15. Southby was the first of the group to finish, running a time of 19:45.32 to claim 12th place. Jackson was exactly 13 seconds behind to finish 13th in 19:58.32. Leonard recorded a time of 20:47.83 to earn 15th place.

“These small, low-key meets are good because there is not a lot of pressure,” head coach Jamie Moreno said. “That allows you to do some things you can’t do in a bigger meet, but there are also a lot of gaps. Sometimes when you get in one of those gaps by yourself in a race it makes it a little bit tougher.”

NIU hosted three other teams at Friday’s meet. Northwestern University, Kishwaukee College and Sauk Valley Community College. The top-10 of Friday’s race was composed of eight members of the Northwestern Wildcats. The race’s champion, Northwestern freshman Skye Ellis, won the race with a winning time of 18:21.38, 26 seconds faster than the runner-up.

“I thought we ran pretty well; we have a lot of work to do,” Moreno said. “We are definitely not content on where we are, but it’s the first step and it gives us something to build on. We have only been in the grass one or two times, and when we get in the grass a little bit more and do some workouts in the grass, it will show. But I was pleased with the girls, we have a lot of work to do, but I am happy with where we are at.”

The Huskies will resume competition in two weeks at the Tom Hoffman Invitational on Sept. 17 in Whitewater, Wisconsin. The women’s 6,000-meter race is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.