Eureka’s Hannah Long capped off a brilliant career as a long distance runner for the Eureka High Wildcats by winning her third consecutive state title at Oak Hills Golf Center in Jefferson City last month. And she did it in record-setting fashion.
Long was the medalist with a time of 17 minutes, 38.29 seconds – her fastest time ever on the state course. By contrast, her time as a freshman was 18:29.71.
“My freshman year, I realized how hard that course really is,” Long said. “I was 24 seconds behind first (place). I was much better prepared to run my sophomore season as I knew the course and could make a better race plan.”
While pressure goes hand-in-hand with trying to win, Long said she was fairly calm at state.
Coach Kally Fischer agreed.
“I really don’t think too much pressure was on Hannah going into the state meet,” Fischer said. “She has always done well in high profile races. She just had her eye on that state record.”
So, they came up with a strategy to make it happen.
“We talked about our plan – keeping a good pace the first mile, then pushing harder as I got further into the course,” Long said.
She knew Nerinx Hall, Lafayette, Francis Howell and Blue Springs all had talented runners.
“The field in Missouri was very deep this year, but not really anyone the same caliber as Hannah,” Fischer said. “She’s really in a league of her own with the top runners in the country.”
Still, nothing was taken for granted.
“I planned to run a good first mile and then slowly pick up the pace over the rest of the course,” Long said. “The temp was good, but the high winds were not good. It is extremely hard to push the pace against 20 mph winds when I am running all by myself.”
At the end of the race, Long was way out in front. The second-place runner, Sophia Racette of Nerinx Hall, finished in 18:09.01.
“I tried to stay focused and keep my form all the way to the end,” Long said. “It was a bit sad as I crossed and had to slow down.”
Fischer had several emotions going as Long crossed the finish line for the final time.
“Bittersweet,” Fischer said, describing how she felt. “A lot of emotion knowing that it was her last state cross country meet and that she is healthy and happy. I am always so proud of her.”
While her time was a personal best for the state course and a Class 4 record, it was not her best time ever. That came in the Southern Stampede, where she ran a 16:51 – a course record – breaking Meredith Snow’s record by 30 seconds. Snow also was a Eureka graduate and a three-time state champion.
“I have really been blessed to have such a wonderful cross country career at Eureka,” Long said. “My coaches have been incredible. They have helped me improve each year and prepared me for entering college. All my teammates are the best. It has been neat to see how they have improved over the years and that many of them have plans to continue running in college.”
Long will run track in the spring. She has earned seven medals in the spring sport. She is the two-time defending champion in the 800- and 1600-meter races and is the Class 4 record holder in the 1600-meter. She also was the anchor on the 3,200-meter relay team in the past two seasons.
Long said she has not done any of this alone.
“I could not have accomplished everything without the support of so many people,” Long said.
She offered thanks to “my Blazers coaches for getting me started in running, my high school coaches for four great years, my brothers for helping me train in the off-season, my friends for being my friends always and forever, my soccer coaches who allow me to play soccer every now and then, and my teachers for allowing me to make up missed work and writing reference letters to colleges.”