Cross Country: Cats attempt to build on speedy season start

Ellie Friedmann, Reporter

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Cross Country

The Wildcats are off to a fresh start this season.

At the Badger Season Opener in Madison, Wisconsin, on Sept. 4, junior Jena Pianin secured a ninth place finish, clocking 15 minutes, 29.2 seconds for the 4-kilometer course. Behind Pianin, seniors Elena Barham and Rachel Weathered finished 13th and 18th, respectively, to help the Cats place third overall behind the University of Wisconsin and Loyola University Chicago.

These key players for the Cats did not compete the following week at the UW-Parkside Midwest Open, which featured a more inexperienced crowd that landed an impressive start to their season. Several freshmen were top finishers for NU, including Hannah Anderson, who was first for the Cats and 13th overall, going 18:56.2 on the 5-kilometer course.

Just two meets into the season, the new coach ‘A Havahla Haynes is already seeing positive results from her athletes.

Haynes, who replaced April Likhite, returned to the Cats this season after coaching at the University of New Mexico for five seasons, guiding its women’s cross country team to a third-place finish at the 2014 NCAA Division I Championships, the best finish in school history.

Before her success at New Mexico, Haynes served as assistant cross country coach at NU for two years under Likhite. A former Big Ten runner herself, Haynes competed for the University of Wisconsin at three NCAA Cross Country Championships during her college career. Haynes’ experience in the Big Ten will be crucial this year as the Cats move into championship races later this season.

Looking ahead, NU will compete Saturday in the Roy Griak Invitational at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. The runners have about a month to prepare for the 2015 Big Ten Championships on Nov. 1 at the Sydney Marovitz Golf Course in Chicago. After a 10th place finish in last year’s Big Ten Championships, the Cats will look for solid, consistent performances this season to prepare for a stronger finish at Big Tens.