HOUGHTON - The Michigan Tech cross country team is off and running.
The Huskies opened their season Friday with the traditional five-kilometer home race at the Tech Trails and got off to a strong start as the men took first place with a team score of 16 - 15 is perfect - and the women finished second to a dominant Northern Michigan, which won the meet with a 1-5 finish.
Tech head coach Joe Haggenmiller wasn't focused on the results, however, he just wanted to see his team in a competitive format.
Michigan Tech’s Kyle Hanson runs at the Michigan Tech Collegiate Opener Friday at the Tech Trails. He was the top collegiate runner, finishing the 5-kilometer race in 16:31. (DMG photo by David Archambeau)
"We just want to get a gauge of where our fitness is at," Haggenmiller said. "And we want to try and run a little faster pace than we did last year at this time.
"I thought our guys ran pretty well. I was really happy with where they were."
Freshman Kyle Hanson took first place among all collegiate runners with a 16:31 blaze through the 80 degree-plus heat and Northern Michigan's Mandy Dye finished first among women with a 19:23 time. Tech seniors Jonathan Kilpela and Nick Wimmer both broke 17 minutes as well to finish second and third among collegiate runners and NMU's Olivia Howard and Megan Edic both finished sub-20 minutes in second and third for the women.
"It is really good to see Kyle Hanson come in here as a freshman an be our top finisher," Haggenmiller said. "That is a legitimate time, I am pretty happy with that.
"Jonathan Kilpela and Nick Wimmer are both senior leaders on our team and it is great to see those guys having good days for their final home meet," Haggenmiller added.
Haggenmiller prefers to start the year with a 5K race - as opposed to the 8K/10K the college men run and 6K the women run - to give his team a competitive environment to accurately gauge their fitness level and help provide pace goals for the rest of the year.
"I would much rather run a faster pace in a 5K and try and work up to that in an 8K, than come out in an 8K for the guys and have them feeling really good for six kilometers and then having them really suffering for two," Haggenmiller said.
The Tech Trails provide a nice start to the year as well, as the the difficulty of previous races is all downhill from here.
"This is probably as difficult as you will get in college cross country," Haggenmiller said. "What makes it tough is that you have 2.5 kilometers of flat and then you go downhill for about 500 meters and then from the 3K mark, you have a climb that goes on for 800 meters. Then you drop down and you have a 600 meter climb into the finish."
The Huskies men took seven of the top 10 spots in what Haggenmiller hopes will be a preview for the rest of the season.
"I am excited about what the future holds for our men's team," Haggenmiller said. "We are returning a lot of athletes and the nucleus of our team was a really strong freshman class last year. These guys are probably still a year away from really breaking through but I think we can surprise some people in the meantime."
For the women, however, it was all Northern.
The Wildcat women placed eight in the top 10 and had 12 racers finish before the first Husky to cross the finish line.
"We have developed a really good relationship with Northern and both of us feed off the competition from each others teams and kind of build off that," Haggenmiller said. "It is a good rivalry, but maybe a different sort of rivalry with Northern than you would find with a lot of sports around here. We are a bit friendlier."