Cross country first-year ready for seasonal change

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Gretchen Pfeiffer is a first-year cross country runner from Texas. (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

The cold Milwaukee winter months are dreaded by many college students. However, for first-year cross country runner Gretchen Pfeiffer, the colder weather is actually part of the reason why she chose Marquette.

Born in Omaha, Nebraska and growing up in Colleyville, Texas, Pfeiffer has been used to running in hot temperatures her whole life.  

“We would have to run a lot in the mornings before school started because after school the temperature would be over 100 degrees,” Pfeiffer said. “I’ve always lived in warmer weather, so the colder weather here in Milwaukee definitely drew me in, as well as Marquette’s biomedical engineering program, so it was a good combination.”  

The transition from the hot climate of Texas to the unpredictable weather of Wisconsin might be seen as a challenging adjustment, but Pfeiffer said she is ready to embrace it.

“For some people it’s all about change, and I think this transition might be a good fit for her, only time will tell,” head coach Sean Birren said.

Pfeiffer was recruited by former Marquette head cross country coach Mike Nelson, who is now head coach at Monmouth University. After Nelson’s departure from the Golden Eagles, Pfeiffer continued to talk with coach Birren about running for Marquette.   

“After originally meeting with Mike Nelson and then talking with Sean, I knew Marquette was the right fit for me,” Pfeiffer said. “When I took my first official visit to the school with some of the other girls on the team, I felt like I got really close with them and I knew I wanted to call Marquette home.” 

As an All-State and Academic All-State member at Colleyville Heritage High School, Pfeiffer led the team to their first state appearances in 2018 and 2019. The team finished 13th in both seasons. On the track, she holds her school’s record in the 5k, 2k steeplechase and was a member of the fastest 4×400-meter relay team in school history 

As well as being one of Colleyville’s best runners in school history, Pfeiffer was a dominant force on the tennis court. During her first year of competition, Pfeiffer placed third at state, but a couple years later she was forced to make a difficult decision to stop playing tennis and focus on running. 

“It was a pretty hard decision to stop playing tennis in high school because my whole family are huge fans and I loved it, but it was at the same time as cross country so it began to get tough at times,” Pfeiffer said. “Overall, I think I made the right decision as I’m happy with where I’m at today.” 

Both of Pfeiffer’s parents were Division I collegiate athletes at their respective universities. Her father Jay attended Marquette before transferring to the University of Colorado to play soccer and her mother Jill competed on the Creighton University women’s golf team. 

“They’ve always had a huge influence on me playing sports growing up and I think it’s definitely paid off so far,” Pfeiffer said. “They were also very supportive of my decision to compete at the collegiate level by allowing to me follow in their footsteps.”  

Although she has to wait a bit longer than anticipated due to COVID-19 postponing the season, Pfeiffer said she is not too worried about her first collegiate season. She is taking the extra time to get more comfortable with the university in addition to aiding a previous leg injury.

“Right now, I’m just focused on rehabbing my injury and putting less focus on mileage so that I can get ready for a potential season in the future,” Pfeiffer said. “I’m looking forward to running in a new environment and getting to know my team better in the upcoming months.”  

Despite the current season postponement, Birren said he is not worried about his first-year runner’s injury and is excited for her future.

“The good thing right now is that we have a lot of time to get healthy and be prepared for a future season,” Birren said. “I’m excited to have her here as I believe she has a lot of potential when she’s fully healthy.”

This story is written by Sam Arco. He can be reached at sam.arco@marquette.edu or on Twitter @sam_i_am119.