Redheaded runner from Tecumeh a member of U-of-M’s national championship relay team

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Amanda (Putt) Eccleston ran the final leg of the Distance Medley Relay to help Michigan win the national title. Photo courtesy of U-M.

By MICKEY ALVARADO

A well-respected redheaded runner from Tecumseh has recently made national news as a member of the University of Michigan’s women’s track team.

Tecumseh High School graduate Amanda (Putt) Eccleston, known locally by her long red hair and running talent, helped the Wolverine’s pick up a national title in the Distance Medley Relay (DMR) at the Indoor NCAA National Championships in Fayetteville, Ark. on Friday, March 8.

Eccleston, a fifth-year senior, and her teammates, seniors Rebecca Addison and Jillian Smith and freshman Maya Long, had to make up some ground after the start of the race but by the end of the second leg had complete control of the track. Amanda received the handoff out in front and was never challenged by another runner. She recorded a personal best for her leg of the run and secured the national championship.

In an interview on the university’s website U-of-M head track coach Mike McGuire said of Amanda, “She ran as competitive and courageous a leg as I’ve ever seen anybody run for me in all the years I’ve been here at Michigan.”

Amanda said she was nervous about being the first to snag the baton as the last leg runner of the race.

“I’m more comfortable running right behind somebody and having them do the work,” said Amanda. “But I knew as soon as I got it I had to go out hard and make it so the other girls couldn’t stay with me. And so, I just kind of went out there and ran faster than I’m used to and ended up PR-ing by quite a bit. I just really tried to run the kick out of the other girl behind me because she was really, really talented.”

It is U-of-M’s fourth-ever NCAA crown in the race and first since 2005. The Wolverines placed in a tie for 15th as a team.

During the DMR, the first runner, Addison, was pushed to the back of the tight 1,200-meter pack but eventually worked her way up into third place before handing the baton to Long, who held the position for 400-meters. Smith took over in third place for the 800-meter leg and made a big move with 100 meters remaining. She took over the lead for the Wolverines and handed it off for the final leg. Amanda took over and never wavered, running faster than she had all season. She crossed the finish line with a 4:33-mile split and overall time of 10:56.46, to secure the national title for Michigan. The four runners each earned All-America first team honors.

The team was very unique in having three seniors, and a freshman.

“It means a lot to them, and I told them it will mean a lot more 10, 15, 20 years from now,” said McGuire. “The neat thing was that I got text messages from our 1994, 1998 and 2005 kids that were national champions in this event, so there is a lot of pride that goes into what we do with that event. Obviously, there are a lot of people connected to Michigan women’s track that really share in that victory and when the kids hear that stuff, it means that much more to them.”

Amanda had just won the one-mile indoor title for the Wolverines at the Big 10 Indoor Championships on February 23. Inspiration may have come after being married last June to Jordan Eccleston, a runner at Hillsdale College.

However, even with the name change fans from Tecumseh still recognize her as the “runner with red hair.”

Amanda’s father, Robert, relayed a story about attending Michigan’s opening season run at Hudson Mills Park when a Tecumseh local approached him, not knowing he was Amanda’s father, and said he came to watch a red head on Michigan’s team who used to run for Tecumseh High School.

“We were quite literally blown away that someone would come all that way just to see our daughter. We introduced ourselves and enjoyed the remainder of the meet with this gentleman,” he said.




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