GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Furman freshman Grace Tinkey has been selected to represent Team USA as a member of the junior national cross country team at the 2014 North America, Central America, and Caribbean (NACAC) Cross Country Championships Saturday in Trinidad and Tobago. Tinkey is one of five female athletes competing for Team USA in the 4K event.
With Tinkey's selection, Furman becomes one of the very few programs in the nation to have two different athletes named to Team USA rosters this year, as Paladin freshman Allie Buchalski competed for Team USA last month at the Bupa Great Edinburgh Cross Country International Challenge in Edinburgh, Scotland.
"When our staff came to Furman, one of our main goals for the program was to think "biggest picture possible" with our athletes to develop them to be competitive at NCAA, USATF and IAAF level," said Furman coach Rita Gary. "While it's fairly easy to say this is one of our goals, it is much harder to actually prove it. Having both Allie and Grace selected as members of Team USA this winter is evidence of our program's priorities. "
Tinkey, who hails from Macon, Ga., registered a 16th-place finish with a time of 20:58.9 to earn All-Southeast Region accolades in November. She placed third at the conference meet with a time of 17:33.76, joining Buchalski on both the All-SoCon first team and the SoCon All-Freshman Team, and was the Paladins' top finisher at the Furman Invitational on Sept. 14. Last weekend she earned All-American status at the USA Junior Cross Country Championships, posting a fourth-place finish in the 6K on the Flatirons Golf Course in Boulder, Colo.
"The USATF selection committee choose Grace based on her terrific background of work, but also based on a trust that we are training our athletes in a manner that will allow them to represent USA at the appropriate times with the appropriate levels of fitness," said Gary. "That is sometimes difficult to do at the collegiate level, but it is something we will always prioritize here at Furman, as we value the experience of Team USA."
So far this indoor season, Tinkey set a meet record of 17:02.99 in the 5,000m at the Emory Crossplex Invitational, earning SoCon Women's Indoor Track Athlete of the Week honors, then claimed a new Furman record with a time of 9:33.36 in the 3,000m at the High Point Team Challenge.
"Grace has had a tremendous indoor season so far," said Gary. "She opened up last month with a very competitive 5K, came back a week later to run a conference leading and school record 3K, and then this past weekend was an All-American at the USA Cross Country Championships. I'm so excited to see what she can do in Trinidad and Tobago. Like Allie, the experience she brings back from this competition makes our entire program better. The perspective she will gain, the people she will meet, and the lessons she will learn are very special and very unique."
A daily blog written by Tinkey will be posted to www.furmanpaladins.com. Check back throughout the week to hear more about her training and the race.