Training to Excel: All-America runner Ana Tucker Motivated by Exercise Science Studies at Hope
Ana Tucker put what she learned in the classroom at Hope into practice running against the top distance runners in the nation.
In just under two hours in March, the senior from Midland, Michigan (H.H. Dow HS) challenged for national titles and raced to All-America honors in two events at the 2023 NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field Championships in Birmingham, Alabama.
Tucker joined sprinter Nora Kuiper (2009 outdoor) and distance runner Marcia VanderSall (1993 outdoor) as Hope runners who earned two All-America honors in the same NCAA Championships.
First, Tucker finished as national runner-up in the 1-mile run. About 1 hour and 45 minutes later, the exercise science major ran again and placed fourth in the 3,000 meters.
Tucker said her studies at Hope helped prepare her for two long and historic runs so close together.
“I learned a lot of good training principles from my studies in exercise science. That certainly helped me a lot,” Tucker said. “Exercise science also just makes me passionate about running in general, then my running makes me passionate about studying exercise science. It’s really a nice cycle there where school motivates athletics, and athletics motivates school for me.”
Both runs — 4 minutes, 49.87 seconds in the 1-mile and 9:38.99 in the 3,000 meters — were indoor school records.
During Day 1 of the NCAA Indoor Championships Tucker anchored the distance medley relay that finished ninth and ran in the 1-mile preliminaries where she recorded the ninth-fastest run.
Assistant track and field coach Mark Northuis ’82, who works with distance runners, said he was proud of Tucker’s performance.
“It was a pretty ambitious schedule that she wanted to do. I am really proud,” Northuis said. “Ana could have just gone for the individual events and left the distance medley relay hanging, but she showed she was a teammate trying to help the relay make All-American as well. She was the only distance runner in the meet to do four events.
“It was quite an accomplishment. She handled it beautifully,” Northuis said. “It shows the fitness level she’s in and her whole attitude and ability to focus on what she’s going after.”
At indoor nationals, Tucker ran her last mile of the day in 5:02. She also clocked the fastest final lap of the field in the 3,000 meters.
Tucker was pleased with her strategy for a busy afternoon.
“When I looked at the two events today. I knew I wanted to run the mile as fast as I could then use whatever energy I had left for the 3k,” Tucker said. “The key was staying calm between the two races and being confident in myself, and also going out a little more slowly in the 3K so I could feel out how much energy I had left.”
“It means a lot to me. I never had an indoor championship go well,” Tucker said. “The first time I tried to run it got canceled due to COVID. The second time I ended up dropping out of the race. It meant a lot to me to come back and run well in multiple events.”
Tucker now has earned All-America honors eight times in her Hope athletic career: three times in both indoor and outdoor track and field and twice in cross country. She owns Hope records in three indoor track and field events and two in outdoor track and field.
In June, Tucker was voted to the Division III Track and Field All-America Teams, selected by College Sports Communicators.
Tucker is an ideal student-athlete to coach, said Northuis, the Hope women’s and men’s cross country head coach.
“She’s easy to work with because she’s an exercise science major. She really understands that and where her body is at,” Northuis said. “She was able to understand why we were having her do certain things in between races. She had very little warm-up. She did other things just to get ready. She was very good at mental preparations. We focused on one race at a time and let the race come to her.”