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Gielczyk, Manistee’s Fuller Looks to Make Splash at MSU

Running came naturally to Annie Fuller.

Her father, Craig Fuller, ran cross country at Central Michigan and was her coach throughout her four years on the girls cross country and track and field teams at Manistee High School. Her mother, Marian Fuller, supported her every step of the way.

To say she left a lasting legacy with the Chippewas would be an understatement.

A four-year time state champion in the 800-meter and three-time state 1,600 champion in track and field, Fuller was named Ms. Michigan Track and Field in 2015. She was state runner-up in the 1,600 as a freshman.

Fuller accepted a scholarship offer from Michigan State and was red-shirted last year while she became acclimated to college life and learned time management as she juggled her schoolwork with practice. She’s majoring in Human Biology.

Not competing was difficult for Fuller, whose athlete’s heart burns with a deeply stoked fire, but she understands the reasoning behind it and knows that it will only help her going forward.

"Especially now that I have four years of being older and stronger, adjusted to life of college and all the studying," Fuller said. "I think it’s definitely going to be a help for me."

She chose MSU first of all because it was close to home. She was also struck by the team dynamics.

Michigan State won its first women’s cross country NCAA championship in program history two years ago. The Spartans were undefeated in their six major competitions of 2014 and landed four runners on the NCAA All-American team. They also won the Big Ten championship.

Fuller relishes a challenge, and is filled with a resolve to earn a spot in the top five runners for the Spartans. In fact, she has her sights set on running No. 1.

She’s fit right in with the rest of the team.

"The girls are very nice and welcoming, and I also felt wanted, that I belonged here," Fuller said. "The program is outstanding, and that was really a big part of the decision. I just felt it had the best plan for me to be here five years.

"I really just felt like they just really believed in my abilities. They had really high expectations of me. Feeling just really welcome and wanted by them was just really cool. I’m really excited. Last year was just kind of easy going.

"Wearing the uniform is just really special. I got to wear it at internationals last year in track, and putting that on was just a special (to) represent a Big Ten school. It’s just a special thing to be a part of."

Although she didn’t compete with the team last year, Fuller trained with the rest of the Spartans and did all the workouts that they did but just went to different races. Sometimes she traveled with the team and ran unattached.

Still, it wasn’t quite the same as being with the team. But she’s past that now and is excited to finally be able to put on the uniform to compete with her teammates.

As of this writing, she has competed in one race at the Eastern Michigan Fall Classic and posted a time of 18:06.7 for a seventh-place finish.

But she’s pointing more toward the track season in the spring. No matter whether it’s cross country or track and field, Fuller is happy as long as she’s competing.

"I feel really excited, especially going into track season," Fuller said. "Not that I don’t like cross country, but I get more excited about track. The 1,600 meters is my favorite event. Really, I’m just super excited to be wearing the jersey, traveling places and getting to compete with the best people in the nation.

"My goal is I’d like to improve my times. I think that with the training I can score well in the Big Ten, and maybe even win a Big Ten championship in track. I know 4:20 won it last year in the 1,600. Also, the cross country team is looking really good. I think we could be contenders for a Big Ten championship and score really high in the nationals. As a team goal that would be really awesome to accomplish."

Fuller got a late start on the cross country season after tearing her plantar fascia in the summer. She’s getting back into the swing of things, but it’s a nagging type of injury that still needs time to completely heal. She can’t wear spikes during her training which has slowed her progress.

But she’s optimistic about being back to full speed by the time the indoor track season rolls around, and then certainly when the outdoor season kicks off.

She’s only getting started, and possesses the inner drive to push through to reach her goals.

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