Lynden Christian track and field coach Kent De Hoog the last two years watched freshman Hannah Rusnak break junior high records and began wondering how her success would translate to the varsity level.
Lynden Christian High School runs middle school track and field meets, so De Hoog and his staff were able to clock Rusnak's times. He remembers going to those meets and hearing people tell him he had to see Rusnak.
"I think she was maybe hanging out at the track in sixth or seventh grade," De Hoog estimated in a phone interview. "She has been around the track even before competing and once in a while she'd jump into the sand pit, and some of the high school students would say, 'You have to watch this girl. She is really good.'"
Rusnak has answered De Hoog's questions, and the LC freshman has captured the attention of many this spring with her fast rise in becoming one of Whatcom County's standout athletes.
Rusnak qualified for the Class 1A State Track and Field Championships in the 100 meters, 100-meter hurdles, the 4x100 relay and the long jump. Not only did she qualify, she's the top seed in the hurdles, fifth seed in the 100 and second in the long jump.
She'll be looking to turn those seedings into medals during the state meet Thursday-Saturday, May 29-31, at Eastern Washington University in Cheney.
Rusnak may be impressing her teammates and coach, but she isn't impressing herself, at least she's not showing it.
"Kind of in between," said Rusnak when asked whether she's been surprised or expecting her success. "I didn't really think I'd be succeeding in how good I am doing, and I try to stay confident and not cocky about that. I did know I was going to do better than kind of most."
Rusnak, who also played for the Lyncs' varsity volleyball team this past fall, said she got interested in track while watching her brother, Nathan Rusnak, at practice. Nathan is a standout on the LC boys' team.
"He pushed me to be the person I am," said Hannah of Nathan. "I started coming around when my brother was doing track. I went to practice and started running and thought, 'Hmm, this kind of seems fun.'"
In three years Rusnak has transformed from a track rookie to a Lynden Christian High record holder.
And she's given the Lyncs, a team that focuses mostly on success in relays, a true top-flight competitor in several open events.
"It's been a few years since we've had someone in state in the 100 hurdles," De Hoog said. "She's in the 100, hurdles and the long jump and could have been in more events also, she was just too busy."
Her 15.21 personal record in the hurdles broke a 20-year old Lynden Christian record, she's tied another nearly 20-year old record with her 12.75 PR in the 100 and Rusnak's 17-11.50 is only 3 inches away from the school's long jump record.
Rusnak's hurdle PR is the best among Class 1A state competition and ranks 15th in the state among all competitors.
But asking Rusnak, she doesn't know where she stands. She doesn't compare herself with others on athletic.net. She solely focuses on herself and improving.
"She just doesn't seem to very phased by all of it," said De Hoog of her freshman's impressive season. "Most kids know what other competitors are doing and where they are placing in league. I'm not sure she does that at all. I think she just enjoys competing and likes to do well. It's just fun for her."
Mostly, De Hoog has been impressed with Rusnak' consistency. She never seems to have a bad meet, he said.
In middle school, the short-distance hurdles is an 80-meter race with hurdles spaced closer together. The added distance in high school hasn't proved too much to overcome; neither has competing with four-year varsity veterans.
"I really like the competition," Rusnak said, "and it's actually pushed me farther to do better. It's kind of nerve racking to go against (the older competitors), and I just talk to them and run my races and get to know them. They are nice, and it relaxes me."
Rusnak's success has seemingly come at the perfect time for Lynden Christian's girls' track team. She's joined an exceptionally strong team capable of not only pushing for a team trophy but possibly a state title.
Distance runner Sarah Ball, relay runners Brandy Bruneau and Brianna Bruneau, throwers Morgan Van Kooten and Hannah Wynstra and jumper Madison Weg should each score points this weekend.
"I'm pumped," Rusnak said. "I really love my team. I get along with everybody, and we have a blast together, and we have a lot of talent."
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2826. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County sports updates.
CLASS 1A STATE TRACK AND FIELD CHAMPIONSHIPS
When: Thursday-Saturday, May 29-31
Where: Eastern Washington University School in Cheney
Reach ANDREW LANG at email@example.com or call ext. 862.