Olivia Hummel is not a freshman, but she is a fresh face for the No. 24 Gophers women’s cross country team, and she looks poised to run in a key spot for them this year.
Her path to the team was not as straightforward as others; the Woodbury, Minnesota native ran one season at the University of Dayton before deciding to return home and transfer to the University of Minnesota.
“We redshirted her last year to get her more experience,” said head coach Sarah Hopkins. “Anytime you transition from one school to another everything changes; we wanted to make sure she was comfortable and got our system figured out before we threw her into the fire. She took last year as training and learning and got a year more mature and savvy.”
A graduate of East Ridge High School, Hummel is now in her sophomore year for the Gophers and majoring in biology, society and environment. She had wasted no time in making an impact for Minnesota; in the first race of the season at the team’s Intrasquad meet, Hummel finished in third place behind twins Megan and Bethany Hasz.
“The team is a lot bigger here and more competitive than it was at Dayton. I think it’s good because it has pushed me to be better and rise to the level of being in the Big Ten,” Hummel said. “I had a lot of fun at Dayton, but I think it was just too small and too far from home.”
While in high school, Hummel was teammates with former Gophers’ runners Emily Betz and Bailey Ness. She competed at the Minnesota State High School League cross country meet for three consecutive years, yet she hadn’t made a decision about competing by the end of her high school career.
“Getting to the end of high school and trying to decide if I wanted to run in college for another four years, I was back and forth for a while because running has been a part of my life forever but I didn’t know if I could do it at such an elite level,” Hummel said. “That was a challenge in my life, but I’m glad I stuck with it because it’s been awesome.”
That was the largest obstacle on a road that would eventually bring Hummel to the University of Minnesota. Now back home with the Gophers, she could face more adversity in the next three years, but coach Hopkins and the Gopher women’s cross country team will have her back.
“For her it’s just about gaining confidence, she’s got to believe that she belongs in that group and I think every week she’s getting a little bit more confident.” said Hopkins. “We don’t expect her to be our #3 runner every single week because we have a lot of good depth, but I think she has to feel confident and comfortable that she can stick her nose in there and I think we’re seeing that every day in her getting a little bit more comfortable and confident in the system and her abilities.”