by Alan Babbitt
Ana Tucker's superb performance in her second collegiate cross country race for Hope College has drawn national accolades.
The freshman from Midland, Michigan (H.H. Dow HS) has been named the United States Track and Field Cross Country Coaches Association Women's National Athlete of the Week for NCAA Division III.
Tucker is recognized after taking first place at the Wheaton College (Illinois) Gil Dodds invitational on Saturday. She topped a field of 171 runners that included top-ranked Washington-St. Louis and No. 4 University of Chicago.
Tucker passed Wheaton All-American Aryn Embretson down the stretch for a winning time of 22 minutes, 22.8 seconds.
Head coach Mark Northuis said Tucker showed a great deal of poise and maturity during the 6K race.
"We wanted to try a different race plan to get her ready for a variety of racing styles," Northuis said. "She made up a 100-meter deficit in the last mile to win against some proven competitors. She is gifted with stamina and speed, which were evident on Saturday."
Tucker thanked her teammates for getting her off to a strong start.
"When we started the race, I started out with a big pack of other Hope teammates. That really helped helped a lot," Tucker said. "I could feel the energy they all had. We worked hard off each other. I gained a lot of strength from that."
Tucker had enough left in her tank to take over the lead late.
"Just seeing the finish line is relay motivating. I felt I had a little bit left," Tucker said. "It was a mental game from that point forward. I knew how hard to push myself. I had not reached my limit yet."
Tucker is now 2-for-2 in winning races for the Flying Dutch.
"I am a little bit surprised," Tucker said of his early success. "I think it's a lot for freshmen when they start out in college. I think I can attribute my success to having so many people supporting me and helping me out: whether it be studying, driving me places or event taking me out for food. They're all supporting me and making the transition to college easier."