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2014 North graduate Natalie Schaefer, right, and her high school cross-country coach, Scott Cooper, after a meet her senior year. Photo courtesy of Scott Cooper.

August 14, 2014
Natalie Schaefer is ready for the next challenge.

The 2014 Grosse Pointe North graduate embraced the challenge of excelling at high school running and she accepted the chance to duplicate the success for Oakland University and head coach Paul Rice.

"I'm excited and nervous to begin college," the 18-year-old Schaefer said. "I liked the smaller class sizes and the campus here at Oakland. I'm looking forward to the change of scenery."

The life-long Grosse Pointer went through the educational process, moving from Ferry Elementary to Parcells Middle School to Grosse Pointe North.

The 3.95 grade point average student-athlete was also interested in Michigan State University, but chose the smaller confines of Rochester and Oakland U. She is a Golden Grizzly.

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Schaefer finished her high school career as one of the Norsemen's all-time best runners, competing in the state finals.

She helped the Norsemen finish 20th in the 2013 Division 1 state championship meet by taking 88th with a time of 19:49.7.

Schaefer also competed in the Division 1 state title meet as a freshman, finishing 171st with a time of 21:13.2.

"Natalie Schaefer is a tremendous young lady who will be sorely missed on our team and will make a great contribution to Oakland's program," North girls' cross-country head coach Scott Cooper said. "She was a 19-minute runner which should equate to great success down the road.

"From the moment Natalie joined the team as a freshman, until her final race as a senior, she was loved by the team. She was always a team favorite. She was a great, positive personality.

"We called her Lil' Nat from the start because she was tiny, and continued to call her that even as she was a much taller senior.

"At the Old Skool race where we do a river crossing twice, I brought her a life preserver to wear as a joke.

"She was a team favorite because she cared about others. On the first day of practice her senior year, I asked the captains, which she was one of, if they could name as many members of the team as possible (we had 70 girls).

"Lil' Nat stood up and walked around our circle of runners and named them all without error and without pausing.

"She set a great example with her hard work each and every day at practice, and went into every race wanting to do better than ever. Oakland U is getting a great leader, a hard worker, a sweet personality and a woman who hold herself to a high moral standard."

Schaefer has been running a lot this summer in preparation for the upcoming collegiate fall season. She is running 30 miles per week.

She reports to Oakland University Aug. 12.

"My goal is to improve my time and running with such skilled college runners will help me do that," Schaefer said. "This is a wonderful opportunity for me and I'm going to take full advantage of it."

She made Academic All-State as an individual and the team earned the honor during her senior year on the cross-country squad. She also earned the Coaches Award and was the Rookie of the Year as a freshman.

"I put in a lot of effort in running with a great group of girls and I will miss them," she said. "However, I will make a new set of friends at Oakland and I'm looking forward to it.

"Coach Cooper did a lot to help me and my pursuit to be the best runner I can be and I am thankful for him."

She went on Oakland's campus with her father, Michael, in February and met Rice. She instantly fell in love with the entire aspect of Oakland University.

"It was not hard to make my decision after the visit," she said.

Schaefer also will run indoor and outdoor track at Oakland.

She ran track at North her sophomore and junior year, running distance events.

She is the oldest child of Michael and Mary.

Her younger sister, Stephanie, is a freshman this fall at North. Stephanie is also going to run cross country.

"I will be anxious to get updates from Stephanie and tell her how I did," Schaefer said. "It will be a little sad to say goodbye from my family when I move in, but Oakland is close to home and it's a great opportunity for me to experience campus life and meet new friends."

She is undecided on a major and picked her classes for the fall semester, pre-calculus, political science, Spanish and an Honor College course.

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