Double duty — or more: Rachel Helm, Jessica Schultz, Northern Michigan University women swimmers repeat just in this year’s Wildcat Awards

Northern Michigan University's Rachel Helm readies for the start of a women's backstroke event at the GLIAC Championships held in the Grand Rapids suburb of Jenison on Feb. 17, 2018. She set a conference meet record of 1:56.38 in the 200 back for her fourth win at the meet and was subsequently named GLIAC Women's Swimmer of the Year. (Photo courtesy NMU)

On the Net: Information about NMU sports teams is available at www.nmuwildcats.com


By Journal Sports Staff

MARQUETTE — In this, the last installment of the 2019-20 Wildcat Awards, several already familiar Northern Michigan University student-athletes have become even more familiar here by earning multiple mentions in this spring cavalcade of honors.

There’s Jessica Schultz, already recognized with an Individual Performance of the Year, along with the NMU women’s swimming and diving team, which already was an integral part of the Best Moment of the Year.

Northern Michigan University's Rachel Helm competes during the women's 100-yard butterfly against Wisconsin-Green Bay on Jan. 12, 2019, at NMU's PEIF pool. (Photo courtesy of Shannon Stieg)

Schultz is a recipient of one of today’s Athlete of the Year awards, while the Northern swimmers are the Team of the Year.

But then there’s Wildcat senior Rachel Helm, who has been part of the NMU women’s swimming honors while also earning a Brian Franks “Too Strong” Award. And today, the Newcastle, England, native is one of three receiving the Gildo Canale Outstanding Senior Award.

Information on these awards has been disseminated through social media and can be found on the NMU official athletics website, www.nmuwildcats.com.

Here is a rundown of today’s final awards:


Northern Michigan University Director of Athletics Forrest Karr stands with Wildcats' swimmer Rachel Helm and her trophy after she was named GLIAC women's Swimmer of the Year in February 2018. (Photo courtesy NMU)

Team of the Year

In February, the NMU women’s swimming and diving team won the GLIAC Championship meet for the first time since 2002 as the Wildcats were ranked No. 12 in the final NCAA Division II national poll conducted by the Coaches Swimming and Diving Coaches Association of America.

And the team produced seven All-Americans after the NCAA national finals were called off during the third day of the five-day meet in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

At the GLIACs, Northern won five events, led by Helm in the 200-yard backstroke and 200 individual medley. Junior Margaret Vaitkus of Munster, Indiana, won the 50 freestyle, freshman Meritxell Font-Cantarero of Girona, Spain, took the 200 butterfly and freshman Michaela Nelson of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, claimed the 100 free.

Because of her swimmers’ and divers’ finish, NMU head coach Heidi Voigt was named GLIAC Coach of the Year.

Northern Michigan University's Jessica Schultz attempts a shot with Purdue Northwest's Brittany Barnard defending at the Berry Events Center in Marquette on Feb. 8. (Journal file photo)

Qualifying for the NCAAs were Vaitkus, Nelson, Font-Cantarero, freshman diver Amanda Baird of Riverside, California, senior diver Jamie Kimble of Prior Lake, Minnesota, junior Gabriella Spajic of Sydney, Australia, freshman Jenna Joerger of Eagan, Minnesota, freshman Julianna Engesser, and sophomore Briana Arnold of Black Creek, Wisconsin.

During the season, NMU won a dozen dual meets, including two wins on back-to-back days over NCAA Division I South Dakota. The Wildcats also won the Calvin College Invitational, an annual event that included eight other teams this season, and set two PEIF pool records.


Athletes of the Year

Staying in the pool, senior Lajos Budai of Kecskemet, Hungary, led the men’s swimming and diving team with two individual victories at the GLIAC Championships in the 100 back and 100 free while also anchoring the winning 800 free relay.

Northern Michigan University's Philip Beaulieu, right, and Bowling Green State's Brandon Kruse battle for control of the puck in the neutral zone in the second period of the first game in their WCHA playoff series at the Berry Events Center in Marquette on March 15, 2019. (Photo courtesy Daryl T. Jarvinen)

During the dual-meet season, he won 11 races while aiding two relay teams to records — the 400 medley relay to a school mark and 800 free relay to a pool record.

Budai also led the NMU men at the NCAA Championships by qualifying in four races, the 50 free, 100 free, 200 free and 100 back. He went on to earn All-American honors in the 100 back and 100 free.

Back on dry land in the Berry Events Center, Schultz had a stellar senior season in women’s basketball, setting Wildcats’ blocked shots records with 48 for the season and 136 in her collegiate career.

The Mineral Point, Wisconsin, resident helped guide Northern to its eighth straight GLIAC Tournament berth.

In a home game against Purdue Northwest on Feb. 8 that NMU won 57-53, she established a career high with 36 points, also the ninth best in program history, making 17 of 22 shots and both of her free throws, adding in game highs of eight rebounds and two blocks while not committing a foul in 36 minutes.

Northern Michigan University’s Katelyn Smith crosses the finish line in sixth place overall, second for NMU, during the women's cross country GLIAC Championships held Oct. 21, 2017, at Gentz's Homestead Golf Course in Marquette. (Journal file photo)

Schultz finished the season scoring in double figures 21 times and achieved five double-doubles. Against Ferris State at home on Jan. 16, she reached the 1,000-point plateau and finished at 1,247 for the 18th highest total in NMU history.

She also earned First Team All-GLIAC and First Team All-Defense in the league this season.


Gildo Canale Outstanding Senior Award

Helm had an outstanding four-year career swimming for NMU, including in her senior season when she dealt with a torn labrum and torn rotator cuff, coming back for a pair of GLIAC meet titles.

She’ll leave NMU as one of the most decorated athletes in the program’s history, winning NCAA national championships in the 100 back as a freshman and the 200 back as a sophomore, the first Northern swimmer to win a national title in nearly two decades. She holds five NMU individual records and seven PEIF pool records, too.

Helm started her career here with a bang, winning GLIAC Female Freshman of the Year honors and followed it up with GLIAC Female Swimmer of the Year as a sophomore and junior.

She completes her time at NMU with three records, 14 individual championships and two relay wins at the conference meet.

Senior hockey captain Philip Beaulieu of Duluth, Minnesota, was another Wildcat with a quality four-year career at NMU.

He cemented his name in the Northern record book as a senior by moving into second place all-time for assists by a defenseman with 95.

Among his awards was being named a Hobey Baker Memorial Award nominee and one of 20 Senior CLASS candidates as a senior, the WCHA Defenseman of the Year as a junior and a CCM/AHCA Second Team All-American as a sophomore.

He ended his career with the second-most career points among current defensemen with 121 and 26 goals for seventh all-time at NMU.

Katelyn Smith of downstate Gaylord was a four-year member of NMU’s cross country and track and field teams. She capped her cross country career by earning all-region honors for the second time at the Midwest Regional last fall, posting a season-best time of 21 minutes, 38.0 seconds to lead Northern. She also picked up her second All-GLIAC Second Team honor at the conference meet.

As a freshman and sophomore, she helped get the Wildcats to the NCAA Division II Championships.

In track, she holds NMU’s second fastest times in the 3,000- and 5,000-meter runs both indoors and outdoors.

Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.

Lajos Budai

Heidi Voigt


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