College athletes have five years of NCAA eligibility, and Amanda Eccleston is using her last one to become a Wolverine.

After four years as a star distance runner on the track and field team at Hillsdale College, located about an hour and a half southwest of Ann Arbor, Eccleston will add experience and maturity to the Michigan women’s cross country team.

Enrolling at the School of Public Health as a first-year graduate student seeking a degree in epidemiology, Eccleston appreciates all of the opportunites that have been given to her. Eccleston said she came to the Michigan for graduate school because the University excels in athletics and academics — the School of Public Health boasts one of the top epidemiology programs in the country.

Along with the academic opportunities, Eccleston has enjoyed the benefits of being a Michigan student-athlete, she said.

“Coming from a Division-II school, the recourses for being a Michigan athlete are incredible,” Eccleston said. “I’ve never had the opportunity to use an underwater treadmill before.”

Eccleston made her mark at Hillsdale both academically and athletically. She was a Division-II NCAA qualifier and Hillside’s MVP in 2011. She holds school records in the 800-, 3,000-, 5,000-meter and the mile runs. She also contributed to records in the distance relays. In the classroom, Eccleston graduated magna cum laude and was on the dean’s list for all eight of her semesters at Hillsdale.

Eccleston brings that ambition to Michigan, having high goals for both herself and for the team.

“I really want to be on the varsity and Big Ten and national teams,” Eccleston said. “We have never won a national title before. It would be great to improve my times and contribute to the team.”

Eccleston credits her teammates and Michigan coach Mike McGuire for the easy transition onto the team, and says that her training partners, freshman Shannon Osika and senior Lindsey Hilton, have given her the opportunity to train at a higher level.

Eccleston made her debut as a Wolverine on Aug. 31 at the Michigan Open with a second-place finish of 18:08 in the 5,000-meter run. She also finished seventh at the Spartan Invitational two weeks ago.

With the Big Ten Championships less than a month away, Eccleston will be a key factor in adding to the depth of the women’s track and field team, as well as bringing in the maturity and experience of a fifth-year collegiate runner.

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