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Northern Illinois seniors balance home meet, graduation

DeKALB – Northern Illinois senior Alexandra Schad finished her final triple jump of the day – and final attempt ever at a home meet – at 2:59 p.m.

Then she had an hour and a half to get ready for one of the biggest events of her life.

Schad was one of the Huskies who had senior day, a home meet with the Huskie Open and graduation all rolled into one chaotic day on Saturday afternoon. After completing her final jump, Schad would have to race over at get ready for the final wave of graduating students walking during the ceremony at the NIU Convocation Center.

“It’s a little hectic,” laughed Schad, who graduated with a degree in pre-physical therapy. “But I can actually get ready pretty quick for a girl.”

She wasn’t the only one who had to deal of the craziness of Saturday, either.

Senior Julianne Cronin, who was a part of the 1,600-meter relay team that broke the school record last season, took fifth in the 400-meter dash (56.33 seconds) before hurrying to get ready to earn her degree in family and child studies.

“It was hard keeping my head in the meet because I was so excited about graduation,” Cronin said. “It ended up going well. I got a (personal record) so I’m happy. I knew for a while that (the meet) would be the same day as graduation so I was just hoping I didn’t have to graduate during the meet.”

For Northern Illinois director of track and field Connie Teaberry, Saturday’s laid back home meet was a chance for the eight seniors on the Huskies team to take a figurative victory lap in front of the home crowd.

“It’s a bittersweet moment,” Teaberry said. “You get to watch the girls compete on their home turf but you know it’s the last time they get to compete at home. I’m just proud of them and happy I had most of them for the four years, some of them one year, some of them one semester – but the time that I had with them is precious and I’m proud of them.”

With Northern Illinois having multiple waves of graduation ceremonies depending on their major, some of the athletes – including distance runner Jamie Burr – weren’t able to compete on Saturday.

Jumper Michaela Dwyer, who finished second in the high jump with a mark of 5 feet, 5 inches, was able to embrace her final meet without worrying about the stress of graduation, since she isn’t planned to graduate until December.

“I was just able to relax,” Dwyer said with a laugh. “My family is here so it’ll be nice to go out to dinner after and not have it be all crazy having to go graduate.”

Senior Latesha Bigby closed out the home finale by breaking the school record in the 100-meter hurdles (13.60).

However, breaking school records wasn’t reserved for the seniors on Saturday. Freshman Ashanti Hutton broke the Huskie record for the 400 with a time of 54.91 seconds. Perhaps the most exciting event of the day came in a battle between two Huskies in the 800-meter dash, in which freshman Lorena Martin (2:13.88) barely held off junior Ali Olson (2:13.93).

While Saturday’s meet had an easy-going feel to it, the Huskies will now prepare for the MAC Championships, which begin on Thursday at Ball State.

“It was good because the girls got a chance to walk (at graduation),” Teaberry said. “Most of the time, we’re going to conference so some of them don’t get to walk. This was a good set-up to get the girls one last chance at home.”

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