Cross country picks up second honor in 2014

By Rhema Rhea

The Huskies have yet another academic honor to add to their accomplishments, this time from the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.

In January, four Huskies were selected to the MAC All-Academic team. Now, the team has been honored for its success not only on the cross-country course, but also its dedication to work hard in the classroom.

The association selected 217 Division I women’s cross-country programs and 160 men’s programs to the All-Academic Team honor.

In order to qualify, NIU had to have competed and gathered a team score at a 2013 NCAA Regional Championship, as well as have a minimum 3.0 grade point average as a team.

The Huskies’ 3.61 team GPA was 30th in the country out of the 217 women’s teams eligible for the award. The 3.61 ranks second among schools in Illinois and third in the MAC.

“Doing well academically is an expectation of our team,” said head coach Greg Hipp. “We set a goal to be above 3.5 as a team in the very first meeting when I got to NIU almost three years ago. And the ladies have done that now for the last three semesters in a row, being as high as 3.72 at one point.

“3.5 is our expectation as a team every year. It only takes a 3.0 to get the national award, so we have a little higher standard for ourselves, but I think we have done a good job of making sure what our first priority should be. We really want to win in cross country, and we really want to win in track, but we remember that we’re college athletes and not just pro athletes, so the academic side is the first priority. So we definitely set some high academic goals for our team.”

Thirteen members of NIU’s cross country squad have a GPA of 3.0 or higher, including nine who have above 3.5, five of whom obtained a perfect 4.0.

Among those who take academics just as serious as their athletics are sophomores Hannah Savage and Ali Olson, both of whom were named to the MAC Academic honorable mentions list.

“School is such an important part of college for me,” Savage said. “I know a lot of the times it gets overshadowed by athletics, but it’s really, really important to me. So it’s cool that there are awards like this that show people around the nation who is doing well in the classroom and on the course.”

Olson, who was a top runner for cross country for most of the season and has continued that as a distance runner for indoor track, said she also feels academics should come first.

“It’s a nice honor,” Olson said. “It shows how hard we work together as team to get it done in the classroom. It’s pretty tough to balance everything with athletics in there as well, but with everybody putting in the same effort it’s a lot easier for us to accomplish our goals as a team.”