Feb. 16, 2012
By Whitney Dixon
When distance runner Danielle Tauro steps to the line to compete in the mile run at the Silverston Invitational this Saturday (Feb. 18), she will not be in Maize and Blue running for the Wolverines. The former University of Michigan cross country and track and field student-athlete graduated in December and is now pursuing a professional running career. Tauro will compete unattached in the mile run against some of her former teammates.
Tauro's track and field legacy lies with Michigan's storied distance medley relay, which has finished in the top-seven at the NCAA Championships 10 times since 1994, winning the national title on three occasions. She finished her career as a three-time All-American and four-time Big Ten champion in the DMR.
On the cross country course, Tauro was a two-time All-Big Ten first team selection. Returning for a fifth year to compete in her final season of cross country turned out to be a wise decision as she walked away from the NCAA Great Lakes Regional Championships with an individual and team title. She capped her career by leading U-M to a 15th-place finish at the NCAA Championships -- the team's highest finish at the national meet in her career.
Since graduating with a degree in sport management in December, Tauro has turned her focus to competing at the next level -- all while working two jobs to make that dream possible.
"I'm definitely stronger than I've ever been at this point," said Tauro, who has been focusing primarily on improving her strength and mileage.
In addition to her training, Tauro has also competed in a half marathon in Mobile, Ala., and a 10,000-meter race in Jamaica. She noticed drastic improvements in her performances, averaging around 6:10 per mile during the half marathon. "I felt great and it was a lot of fun, so my body wasn't in that much pain. That was a good testament to how my training has been going."
Tauro will use the Silverston Invitational this weekend as a benchmark to see how her training has progressed and keep a competitive mindset. "The mile has always been my main event, so I'm excited to see what I can do. This meet is not super competitive, so I will probably have to rely on my strength to keep the tempo up and push myself. I think my training will probably suit this type of a race."
In order to keep training on this level, Tauro is also utilizing her Michigan education as she landed a job as an event coordinator for the Birmingham Bike Festival. "I get to do a lot of my work from home, so that gives me the flexibility to keep training."
She has also continued her involvement with the university, working part-time with the Student Ambassador Program at many Michigan athletics events. "It's really fun and I think it's the perfect supplement to my training."
Although Tauro has turned her attention to competing at the next level, she will always remember where she was just three short months ago -- competing for the Maize and Blue.
"I'm really happy with the way my career ended -- with the best season of my life, feeling the fastest and strongest I've ever felt, and team-wise we had an amazing season. That gave me so much more motivation to stick around and keep training with them."
Michigan women's cross country head coach Mike McGuire was the one who recruited Tauro out of Southern Regional high school in Manahawkin, N.J., in 2006 and helped mold her into a top-notch athlete.
"Mike and I have such a huge respect for one another. A lot of times with his training, he doesn't verbalize why we do the things that we do. I had to trust that everything he was giving me was for a reason. Looking back, I'm so much stronger now than I was in high school and I credit a lot of that growth and strength to Mike and his training. Our training was a building process and I'm able to get stronger and get to that next level because there's so much more left -- there's so much more room for improvement."
Tauro continues to train with McGuire and Michigan's strong distance runners, many of which she competed alongside for as many as three years. "I'm really lucky to be able to have those girls. It's really hard to push yourself in this sport by yourself, especially to the next level. It's a really natural fit for me to be training with those girls."
To supplement her training with Michigan's distance runners, Tauro has also called upon a familiar face to help push her to the next level -- former Wolverine and professional athlete Nicole (Edwards) Sifuentes (2005-08). Edwards was a 10-time track and field All-American at Michigan and is currently competing for Canada and training for the 2012 London Olympics.
"She was a senior on the team when I was a freshman and also stuck around for a fifth year in cross country, so I got a year and half of training with her. Every time I run with her, she pushes me to my max and that's how you get to the next level. I'm really pleased with how my training is going because I'm breaking barriers for myself. Knowing that I'm staying with her in workouts is a huge confidence boost for me going into races."
Tauro understands that taking her career to the next level will mean more hard work than ever to compete with stronger and faster athletes on the national and international level. "I know that these professional races are going to be like running at a national championship meet every time, so you have to be really tough and grit your teeth through it. At the next level, the bar is raised that much higher."
As she continues to train, the dream that all professional runners aspire to achieve remains fresh in her mind -- to compete for her country in the Olympics.
"Ever since high school, I was thinking of really trying for the London Olympics. Right now, I think making an Olympic team would be a long shot, but I definitely want to be there and be in the mix with the athletes. That would be a really great experience for me and build my confidence going into the next four years after that."
As Tauro begins the next chapter of her life, she remains humble and fortunate for all the University of Michigan provided, both athletically and academically. The indescribable feeling of being part of a team and receiving a Michigan education are things she will never take for granted.
"As a team, we had extra motivation to achieve at the highest level in the classroom. The characteristics that we use athletically as a team -- work ethic, motivation and goal setting -- we applied to school. But what I think I'll remember most about being part of a team is the feeling you get when you have those insanely hard workouts and you look around and your teammates are going through the same thing with you. It's that shared suffering feeling that brings everyone so close -- it's like a family that you can't find anywhere else."
Although the direction of Tauro's professional career is uncertain, her hard work and determination to continue running at the next level are two things that are not in question. "It's just going to keep getting harder so you can't fear the pain and you can't fear going out faster than you've ever gone out before. I'm excited to see what the future holds."