One NIU track and field athlete is back from warmer weather in El Salvador. Huskie freshman Ashley Tutt (Channahon, IL/Minooka) helped the USA Track & Field Junior Cross Country Team finish in second-place at the 2018 North America, Central America and Caribbean (NACAC) Cross Country Championships held on Saturday, Feb. 17.
“The experience was amazing,” said Tutt of the trip. “It was humbling to represent team USA and NIU in El Salvador. It was incredible to be surrounded by such amazing talent. I’m also grateful to everyone back home who has been so supportive.”
Tutt made the USA Junior Team after winning the 2018 USA Track & Field Junior Women’s Six-Kilometer Championship on Saturday, Feb. 3. The young Huskie outran the Atlantic Coast Conference Freshman of the Year, Michaela Reinhart, who also competed as Tutt’s teammate on Feb. 17.
“Ashley is very coachable, and always loves feedback,” said NIU cross country Head Coach Adrian Myers. “It was fun watching her race at the USA Juniors, and [to see] her execute exactly what we talked about. We discussed the night before after she ran the course to make a hard aggressive move about 200 meters out from ‘the wall,’ which is a massive, long incline on the course. There is some serious risk in making a move like that, but Ashley simply agreed to execute that move. I watched with goosebumps as she dropped her head and just started to go, and press, and make the climb then continued to separate into the finish.”
Tutt’s freshman season has shown nothing but progress from the very first meet back in September. She started the season off in the ninth spot on the team in the four-kilometer and five-kilometer races, but as the distance increased to six-kilometers, she quickly moved up to the third running position.
“The thing that makes Ashley special is that she has a love for this sport,” said Myers. “Her gift as an athlete is many things other than talent. Division I athletics is crowded with talent, but someone like Ashley begins to emerge quickly because of her willingness to step-up and do what needs doing to be successful. She wasn’t going to wait around for it, she prepares for it every single day. So for that, good things have come her way, and this is only a beginning for her.”
As her season progressed, she only got better, advancing to the second running position as the season started to come to a close. Tutt was named the Mid-American Conference Female Freshman of the Year after finishing 13th overall in the MAC Championship and finished second for the Huskies.
Tutt went on to run her fastest race of the season at the NCAA Regional Championship, coming in at 22nd in 20:47.68. Her result from the NACAC Cross Country Championships was 21:20.
“Ashley is a leader by example and one of the most positive people I’ve been around as a coach,” said Myers. “She works just as hard in the classroom as she does on the track. It’s hard to not rally around her success because she simply works hard, is a good person and wants everyone around her to rise up as well. She doesn’t outwardly seek this attention for herself, but with accomplishment, it comes. She will continue to surprise us for years to come because of her humility and desire to be great. If Ashley’s development is any indication of our future as a program, I can’t wait for the race.”
Tutt’s USA teammates included Amanda Davis and Hannah Tobin from Northwestern as well as Amanda Beach and Reinhart from Duke.
The USA team competed against athletes from Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Jamaica, Mexico, Peru and Puerto Rico.