WMU - McDaniel Heads to Oregon With Chance at History

WMU - McDaniel Heads to Oregon With Chance at History

Provided by WMU

KALAMAZOO -- It has been 28 years since Caroline Mullen crossed the finish line to take fourth in the 5,000-meter run at the 1987 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, becoming the first Bronco to earn All-American honors in the distance event. On Saturday at the University of Oregon's legendary Hayward Field, freshman sensation Maria McDaniel will have a chance for glory as she competes in the event.

In just her first year at Western Michigan success has become something of a routine for the Naperville, Ill., native. She finished as the runner up at the Mid-American Conference Cross Country Championships, finished 15th at the NCAA Cross Country Great Lakes Regional Championship and eventually 54th at the NCAA Championships. During the indoor track season she went on to earn Second Team All-MAC honors after finishing second in the 3,000-meter run.

"Every practice, every race, I go into it thinking I need to do my best," responded McDaniel on the expectation of success. "That's all anyone can ask of me. If I think about times it tends to freak me out. So I don't want to put all the pressure on a time or a place. If I can go out there and compete, beat as many people as I can and have fun with it then that's really all I can ask for."

McDaniel found herself in that very predicament at the NCAA East Preliminary Championships. She was set to run in the second heat of the 5,000 so after the first race she knew she had to finish in either the top five of her heat or have one of the two best times outside of the 10 automatic qualifiers. McDaniel just missed out on the top five but claimed the final qualifying time after running 16:13.99. While it was the final spot, she was .99 seconds ahead of the 13th finisher in the race.

McDaniel will be the lone Bronco competing at the NCAA Championships this season. With her coaches, head coach Kelly Lycan and assistant coach Rebekah Smeltzer, there to cheer her on, along with her parents, she knows that her teammates have her back all the way in Kalamazoo.

"Even though there is only going to be a small group cheering me on in Oregon, I know my teammates are supporting me," McDaniel added. "Some are on their break or just starting their breaks and a lot have been coming to practice for the past few weeks and running with me. They've all expressed their excitement for me and so I know they are going to back me up the whole way. They're such great teammates and I'm honored to represent them at the meet."

To earn All-American honors she would need to finish in the top 18. The top nine earn First Team honors, while 10-18 fill up the Second Team list. Coverage of the final day at the 2015 Outdoor Track & Field Championships begins at 5 p.m. on ESPN2.