BUTTE — When Becca Richtman's cross country coach at Winona State in Minnesota, Zach Kughn, informed her he was "starting a program in the mountains in Butte, Montana," she didn't hesitate in relocating more than 1,000 miles to the western slopes of the Great Divide.
"I believed in him so much and his training and philosophy," Richtman said, also noting the benefits of being able to train at altitude. "I was like, 'OK, I'll follow for sure.'"
More than a year later, the coach-athlete tandem has paid off for Montana Tech's first-year cross country program.
Richtman, a senior transfer from Elburn, Illinois, has earned a pair of All-American honors over the past month.
She took sixth place in the 3,000-meter race at the NAIA National Indoor Track and Field Championships last month and then followed up that achievement with a third-place finish at the NAIA Cross Country Championship in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, last week.
"It was really exciting," said Richtman, who also took third place at the Frontier Conference championship last fall after collecting three wins in the regular season. "It was something I didn't think I'd really be able to do coming into cross country season. And so then to get third at nationals was like a dream. It was awesome."
Kughn, a former Montana State cross country runner, has watched Richtman transform from what he described as a "middle of the pack" runner to one of the most promising runners in the nation who still has a full year of eligibility remaining.
"The coolest part is just seeing her progress from when I got to Winona, when I left Winona, when she got here," Kughn said. "And we're still seeing how far she can go."
Richtman has now collected two All-American titles this season and will look to add a third at the NAIA national outdoor meet in May.
"I think that could be something definitely possible," Richtman said.