NIU claims first MAC cross country crown in program history
A year after narrowly missing out on winning the Mid-American Conference Cross Country Championship, the Northern Illinois University cross country team came out on the winning end of a tight finish at the conference championship, edging Toledo by three points to win the 2020 MAC Championship on Saturday afternoon (Nov. 21).
Ashley Tutt (Channahon, Ill./Minooka) and Mackenzie Callahan (Minooka, Ill./Minooka) led the way for the Huskies, finishing second and third, respectively, to earn First Team All-MAC honors. Huskie head coach Adrian Myers was named the MAC Women’s Cross Country Coach of the Year.
“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,” said Myers of winning the conference title. “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.”
At the one-mile mark in the race, the Huskies were in sixth as a team, improving to fourth by mile two before moving to the front of the field in the second half of the six-kilometer race.
Bowling Green’s Kailee Perry was first across the line to claim the individual title in 20:41.0, but it was a pair of Huskies next to finish as Tutt came home second in 20:52.7 and Callahan was closely behind in third with a time of 21:04.3.
“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,” said Myers. “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.”
Sara Atkins (Warrenville, Ill./Wheaton Warrenville South) earned a top-25 finish, crossing the line in 22:00.7 to take 23rd, followed closely behind by Brooke Lytle (Waukesha, Wis./Waukesha West) and Hannah Ricci (Naperville, Ill./Naperville North) who both scored top-30 placings. Lytle was 27th in 22:11.5 and Ricci claimed 29th in 22:15.0.
“Sara Atkins, in her last cross country race as a Huskie, came through in a big way,” said Myers. “Hannah (Ricci) and Brooke (Lytle) did their job, we knew that is what it was going to take to win the championship. It was a total team effort and there is no better way to win a championship.”
Ricci posted the final scoring position for NIU, giving the Huskies 84 points, just ahead of Toledo’s 87. Host Bowling Green was third with 90 points while Miami claimed fourth with 95 points. One year ago, when hosting the conference cross country championship, the Huskies came up two points shy of earning the team title. Earlier this fall, it looked unlikely that NIU would have the opportunity to chase down that elusive championship when the cross country season was put on hold, something Myers reflected upon shortly after guiding the Huskies to their first MAC cross country championship in program history.
“We came in fit, but not necessarily emotionally in a good place, with everything going on in all of our lives,” Myers said. “Honestly, our focus was on track until about a month ago, and then we had to shift our focus, dial in and get our minds right to do all the things we needed to do to get ready for a championship.
“That took a lot, I had to be mindful of what we were doing on a daily basis to make sure we were doing things in a logical process and not push them beyond what their mental and emotional barriers were, to really bring them together at the right time. I told our team, ‘trust me, trust each other and we will be ready when the championship gets here.'”
1. NIU, 84
2. Toledo, 87
3. Bowling Green, 90
4. Miami, 95
5. Ball State, 130
6. Ohio, 142
7. Akron, 160
8. Central Michigan, 223
9. Eastern Michigan, 227
10. Kent State, 231
11. Western Michigan, 273
12. Buffalo, 357
NIU Individual Finishes
2. Ashley Tutt, 20:52.7
3. Mackenzie Callahan, 21:04.3
23. Sara Atkins, 22:00.7
27. Brooke Lytle, 22:11.5
29. Hannah Ricci, 22:15.0
45. Nora Finegan, 22:40.1
51. Victoria Robinson, 22:45.9
70. Janae Dean, 23:03.1
76. Kaitlin Miller, 23:11.7
MAC Women’s Cross Country Coach of the Year: Adrian Myers, Northern Illinois
MAC Women’s Cross Country Freshman of the Year: Kaliee Perry, Bowling Green
Women’s Cross Country All-MAC First Team
Kaliee Perry, Bowling Green
Ashley Tutt, NIU
Mackenzie Callahan, NIU
Elka Machan, Ball State
Lindsey Scarton, Akron
Katerina Shuble, Bowling Green
Katie Vitou, Miami
Women’s Cross Country All-MAC Second Team
Rebecca McNamee, Westeren Michigan
Maya Hannagan, Toledo
Carmen Riano, Miami
Cayla Eckenroth, Ball State
Emily Paupore, Central Michigan
Hailey Bowes, Ohio
Semra Karaslan, Toledo