Eureka’s Long finishes in 10th place in Foot Locker national cross country race
By: Warren Mayes
Eureka sophomore standout distance runner Hannah Long got on the national stage at the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships and showed she belongs there.
Long finished 10th with a time of 17 minutes, 47 seconds. She finished seventh in the Midwest Regional to qualify. Ten girls from each of the four regionals earned berths in the national race.
“San Diego was a great experience,” Long said. “It was fun, but also business.”
This was her plan since last summer.
Long’s season was planned around the Missouri state championship and Foot Locker races, Eureka coach Kally Fischer.
“We looked at the season with the approach of getting her to qualify for the Foot Locker nationals,” Fischer said. “The workouts and racing were planned accordingly. Everything we planned out for the season was playing into our hands perfectly.”
Planning and accomplishing are two different things, of course. This time it worked out. Long won state and the qualified for the national race.
“It is such a sense of accomplishment to qualify for Foot Locker nationals,” Fischer said. “With Hannah having a year of cross country already under her belt, a successful track season, racing well at Great American definitely makes an impression that Hannah has established herself as one of the top girls in the country. So with that said, we accomplished one goal of making it to nationals.
“Then the next phase would be preparing for the final step. With the final step being a huge achievement and the opportunity that laid head for Hannah at nationals was amazing. This was an experience of a lifetime — one of the coolest things any high school athlete can take part.”
Long did get to enjoy herself in San Diego.
“I got to spend a lot of the weekend doing fun activities with all the girls from the Midwest,” Long said. “Before the trip, I had only really associated their names with their running accomplishments and racing times. After this trip, I was able to really get to know them for the people they are outside of running and I’m so glad I got this opportunity because they’re all a lot of fun.
“It was neat to listen to the Olympians (Meb and Ryan Hall) and pro runners talk about their running experiences and careers during our Friday dinner.”
Since this was her first time running in a national event, Long did experience some butterflies.
“Before the race, I was a little nervous because I knew in the back of my mind that I was about to race some of the best girls in the country,” Long said. “However, I really tried to relax best I could before the race and really just soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the experience while I was there.
“Being as this was my first time at Foot Locker Nationals, I didn’t really have a specific place in mind. I was simply preparing to go up there and represent Missouri and run to my potential.”
Her strategy was to get out in the start and be very controlled. Long wanted to be in at least the top 20 in the early going. Then, after about the first 800 meters, she would try to move up as many spots as I could and try to stay right behind the lead pack the rest of the race.
“For the most part, the race went how I planned,” Long said. “I got out in pretty good position although it was super crowded in the first 400 meters and very hard to take a full stride. After about a little more than 800 meters, the race started to spread out a little. From that point on I was around the top 10 spot for the majority of the race.”
Her finish made her happy.
“I was definitely pleased with my place and it’s hard to judge on how I did off of time because I’ve never run that course before,” Long said. “I think this would be one of my best performances so far in my high school running career. Not only was I proud of my race performance, but the overall trip will for sure be an experience I will remember forever.”
Fischer said Long proved she is among the best in the nation.
“She is an inspiration to many girls on our team and in Missouri,” Fischer said. “To be All-American at this event is a great achievement. I think she may have shocked herself, but if she ran smart early on, we knew she could be top 10. It definitely recognized her as one of the top girls in the country.”
The memories of the event will stay with Long for some time.
“The overall experience of this race was very exciting. It was so cool to have all the Olympian and pro runners at the course during the race and to also have the announcer there talking a little about each and every runner,” Long said. “During the race, it was amazing to be able to run in sort of a pack for a while with the Midwest team.
“Although most people perceive Foot Locker as a race for individuals, to me it really did feel like I was there with the Midwest team. I felt honored to be apart of a team that has had a record of domination in past years. It was cool to be able to actually spend time with Midwest girls off the course and get to know them better.”
After accomplishing what she did, Long said this will help her as she strives to get better and better.
“I think this running Foot Locker Nationals will help to prepare me for higher level races in the future,” Long said.
Now, she will take some time off. In the new year, Long will start preparing for the USA Cross Country Nationals in Forest Park.
“I’m really just trying to use this race as a way to get in shape for track but I’d also like to have a good race,” Long said.
The race at Forest Park is longer, Fischer said.
“She will race in the important junior championships, She loves running this race, it is a 6K so a little different but preparing for college racing,” Fischer said. “Other than it being super cold during that time, it’s a great race.”
Long said her coach played a big role in her success this season.
“I would just like to thank my coach for helping prepare for this race both physically and mentally,” Long said. “Foot Locker put on a spectacular event and treated the athletes like kings and queens. I would like to thank my mom (Cindy) for traveling with me and supporting me throughout this cross country season.”
It’s been quite a year for Long, Fischer said.
“Hannah earned the Class 4A state championship along with her team bringing home a second-place state trophy,” Fischer said. “Now she’s ranked as the 10th fastest high school girl in the nation. Hannah represented Eureka, Missouri, and the Midwest well.”
Fischer said she expects Long to continue to improve.
“She has shown so much growth and improvement,” Fischer said. “That’s the greatest thing about our sport. Those two things can keep working in your favor if you allow. She is also learning more about racing, which is assisting in how she approaches each race and her times.
“I always say possibilities are unlimited with anyone. You get out what you put in. She continues to give more than anyone; good things will keep coming her way. She has the potential to be one of the best runners Missouri and the Midwest has every seen. I am super proud of her.”