MARQUETTE, Mich.—Northern Michigan University Women's Cross Country will have to replace some talented seniors that graduated in May but have plenty of returning experience to continue their tradition of advancing deep into the postseason.
The Wildcats lose five-time All-American Kameron Burmeister and Nordic Skiing All-American Vivian Hett to graduation after both were top-five runners for much of their careers. Despite the heavy loss, NMU will return five of their top-seven runners that competed at the 2017 NCAA Division II National Championships.
"We have a solid group of returners that are motivated to continue our success as a team. They are working hard this summer to be prepared for the upcoming season."
Junior Katelyn Smith (Gaylord, Michigan) looks poised to lead the Wildcats this season after a strong sophomore campaign. She owns the sixth-fastest six-kilometer time in program history after earning all-conference honors last season with a time of 21 minutes, 56.90 seconds. Smith also earned All-Region honors and was the team's top finisher at a pair of events hosted by NCAA Division I universities.
NMU finished 13th as a team last season at the national meet with help from a number of other returners including senior Abby Fifarek (Buckley, Michigan) and senior Sophie McDonald (Park City, Utah). Both scored for the Wildcats at the meet who reached the NCAA Division II Championships for the third consecutive year. Senior Kieren Becker (Fowler, Michigan) and junior Hanna Torvi (St. Paul, Minnesota) also competed at the national meet and look to help the team return this season.
"It takes a lot of depth to have a successfull cross country season. Besides those top-five returners who have good experience at the highest level, we also have a group of returners that are looking to move up in the ranks and help with our success. They have seen what it takes and are working hard to take that next step. "
Competing in one of the toughest regions of the eight in NCAA Division II, the Wildcats placed 13th at the national meet despite only receiving an at-large bid. Facing the nation's top competition on a weekly basis means Ryan is always looking to bring in young talent.
"We have a large incoming class with some good talent and untapped potential. It will be exciting to add the freshman into the mix and see them push some of the upperclassmen to improve."
If NMU is going to return to the NCAA Division II Championships for a fourth-consecutive season and 11th time in program history, you can expect multiple returners to make major strides during the 2018 campaign. Additionally, another strong recruiting class should put the Wildcats in a position to compete in the postseason for years to come.