Eureka’s Hannah Long goes the distance to win state
By: Warren Mayes
Eureka sophomore Hannah Long set some serious goals for this year and she reached them all.
She set out to win the Class 4 state cross country championship and she did. She wanted to finish in the top 10 at the prestigious Foot Locker Midwest Region Championships and she did.
“It’s awesome to finally get that state title,” said Long, who finished second as a freshman. “After track season last year, I felt like I was really close. I ran the 800, the mile and in the 4×800 relay. I was second in them all. I was really happy with my place but I was a little discouraged because I really wanted that state title.”
So, she began to work. Over the summer months, Long took “lots of long runs.” She ran five or six days a week. Long put in about 25 to 30 miles each week.
“I felt good going into the season,” Long said. “Coach (Kally Fisher) helped me a lot. This year, we tried to make my workouts a little more intense so I could reach the goal of getting a state championship this year.”
At the recent state meet in Jefferson City, Long won the Class 4 individual title in 18 minutes, 6.91 seconds, 34 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Nicole Mello, of Columbia Hickman.
That capped a solid fall campaign for Long.
In the fall’s big race at Forest Park attended by the state’s top runners, Long placed second. She went to North Carolina in October for the All American Cross Country Festival. She came in second in a race that featured about 200 runners from across the country.
“I was happy with the second-place finish at North Carolina,” Long said. “I had a lot of tough competition so I was satisfied and I think that race helped me. The reason I went to that race was that my coach wanted me to run in a bigger race to prepare me for the Foot Locker race against competition.”
Back for the high school competition, Long was determined. She won the district race. She followed that with a sectional victory.
“Those wins boosted my confidence for the state meet I think,” Long said.
It turned out the way Long wanted it to.
“I was leading the whole way,” Long said. “I didn’t get out too fast. I was running with Nicole for the first mile and then I pulled away. I didn’t look back. I got really excited when I saw the finish line.”
Long didn’t rest on that victory. Instead, she kept training for the Foot Locker race in late November at the Wayne E. Dannehl Cross Country Course in Kenosha, Wis.
In that race, Long competed against other high school runners from Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. She finished seventh in 17:33. Her pace per mile was 5:39.
The top 10 finishers in the girls seeded race and the boys seeded race advanced to the Foot Locker Nationals at Balboa Park in San Diego, which took place after presstime.
“I felt like I was in good shape from state. I was ready to run a good race. I knew there was going to be really tough competition there and it would be hard to get into the top 10, (but) I was feeling positive before the race,” Long said.
Long said she was happy with her time. It was a big improvement over last year’s time of 17:47.
“I’m really happy about that,” Long said, calling the regional race “exciting.”
The course is difficult. The start has the runners going up a big long hill. Then it goes downhill for the next mile. The last mile is up and down to the finish.
“There were a lot of people there watching,” Long said. “There were more than a typical race for high school. It pumped me up for the race. I just went into it and wanted in the beginning to assert myself into the top 10 and stay in the lead pack. I was able to do that.”
After a while, the top pack of runners split into two groups. Long said she was in the second pack.
“I tried to make a move but I couldn’t quite get up there,” Long said. “I was very happy with my finish. My main goal was to be in the top 10 and I did that. I had to meanly push myself. Everyone is hurting in that last mile. I had to push myself. So it was good to accomplish that.”