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Kindness lives on at NMU

January 30, 2011

Temperatures have dipped below 10 degrees, snow is falling on a daily basis and the sun has gone south for the winter.

Yes folks, it feels like track and field season.

Ok, maybe that sounds more like skiing weather for the Noquemanon Ski Marathon, but the truth is, track and field is under way in the Upper Peninsula.

The Northern Michigan University women's track team hosted the Northern Challenge last weekend and is competing as if it's the middle of spring.

After being ranked No. 40 in the preseason, the 'Cats have climbed to No. 23 in the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.

Last weekend at the Superior Dome, Bailey Franklin cleared 5 feet, 8.75 inches in the high jump and Jamie Roberts soared over 12-3.25 in the pole vault. Both are ranked in the top 10 in NCAA Division II.

Franklin also holds the record in the 55-meter hurdles (8.52 seconds) and the triple jump at 39-0.25.

Catherine Angeli set records in the 55-meter dash (:07.35) and 200-meter dash (:25.77). Brittnee Balbierz time of 42.93 seconds set a mark in the 300-meters and Angeli, Balbierz, Samantha White and Katy Lafayette posted a new low in the 800-meter relay of 42.93 seconds.

All of those accomplishments in the first few weeks of the season may sound impressive, but it hasn't been times, distances, heights or rankings that have caught my eye.

At the Northern Challenge, before the first gun even sounded, the Wildcats helped out a teammate in need, Kristina Donley, who is fighting cancer.

The team raised $1,000 for their teammate's treatment through fundraisers and donations even though she just arrived on campus this semester.

Donley was enrolled to begin classes at NMU in the fall of 2010 and join the NMU track team, but those plans were halted when she was diagnosed with dysgerminoma of the ovaries.

She will begin running cross country in the fall.

"They have been really supportive, even over the summer," Donley said. "I hadn't even met them and they bought bracelets and it was really supportive."

Donley isn't the only person the Wildcats are rallying around. They also plan to help assistant coach Justin Merckx, who also recently won a battle with cancer.

Often the college experience is judged solely on grades and in college athletics, wins and losses determine success. The truth is, college is about growing toward the future and there's no greater lesson than kindness.

So let's celebrate the NMU track and field program this year, for not only succeeding in the classroom, on the track and in the field, but in the game of life, as well.

Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His e-mail address is



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