Danielle Tauro was enjoying middle-school gym class in her hometown of Manahawkin, N.J., when an unexpected visitor showed up. Her future high-school cross country coach considered the nearby middle school recruiting territory.

Chris Dzombak / Daily

“He kind of picked me out from gym class and told me to come out for the cross country team,” Tauro said. “I did, and everything just escalated from there.”

Tauro had never been a runner before, but she apparently looked enough like one.

Seven years later, Tauro is a sophomore rising star on the No. 17 Michigan women’s cross country team, will compete at the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Ind., this Monday.

The Wolverines have had a successful season, led by fifth-year senior Nicole Edwards who has been the top finishing Wolverine in four races this season. but Edwards will exhaust her eligibility after this season. That’s where Tauro comes in.

“Danielle contributes a lot more than she does just time-wise,” Michigan coach Mike McGuire said. “She is really well-received by all her teammates, and she is a very team-oriented person. Always smiling, great attitude, she is the type of person with an infectious attitude you like to have on the team.”

Tauro spent her freshman season adjusting to the challenges of college athletics and has spent this year chasing down other runners.

Tauro exhibited her talent from the start of this season when she won the season opener.

“I’m usually just staring at the person in front of me, hoping I can close the gap,” Tauro said. “I’m thinking about my teammates, where they are in the race. Mike (McGuire) sometimes will count and tell me what place I am in.”

Tauro is running furiously to be Michigan’s top runner in the coming years, after being named the Big Ten Runner of the Week twice this season.

A consistent scorer all season, Tauro usually finishes in second or third place for Michigan. She crossed the line first for Michigan in the Big Ten Championships earlier this month, placing 13th overall in the team’s disappointing fifth-place finish.

“I definitely want to try and fill some big shoes,” Tauro said. “I am going to try to step it up, especially in the Big Tens. I want to start trying to make it individually for Nationals, and hopefully, eventually get All-American.”

Although she’s just a sophomore, Tauro’s teammates and coaches have noticed her as a potential leader.

“It is kind of like passing the torch down to Danielle to lead the team,” redshirt junior Geena Gall said. “She has become more of a leader this year than last year. She motivates me to run faster and to stick with it.”

Lucky to have a runner’s build as a 14-year old, Tauro now runs like one too, and that’s a definite advantage for the Wolverines.

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