No matter who lined up next to her on the track or who was jumping in the same sand pit, Lynden Christian sophomore Hannah Rusnak ensured only one competitor garnered her undivided attention.
Rusnak had every reason this year to feel the burden of performing well following last spring’s success, a season in which she won a hurdles state title and took second in the long jump while establishing herself as Whatcom County’s next great track and field athlete.
And the stress of producing an encore performance reached Rusnak.
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“I felt a lot of pressure,” the LC standout admitted in a phone interview, “but with the help of my family and friends, it eased up a bit. Just looking at my times and trying to beat myself and improve in that way, I knew that If I accomplished that then there was nothing to stress about. That pushed me.”
All the way to two more individual state titles, a relay title and, not to mention, a team state championship, too.
Rusnak followed up a sensational freshman campaign with even more success her sophomore season.
She successfully defended her 100 meter hurdle Class 1A State Championships title by blowing away the rest of the field, finishing the race at state in 14.71 seconds — .87 seconds faster than the second-place finisher.
Rusnak doubled up by posting a personal-best mark of 18 feet, 8 1/4 inches in the long jump for her second title and added a third championship running the anchor leg on the Lyncs’ 4x100 relay team, which set a new state record with a time of 49.07. She also placed third in the 100 meters with a 12.90.
Not including the relay, Rusnak accounted for 26 of Lynden Christian’s 51 team state championships points.
“She was a major factor in terms of our points,” LC coach Kent De Hoog said in a phone interview. “There is no doubt about that. She is an exceptional athlete, and we needed her in all those events to do well, and she was able to do that.”
Thanks to an outstanding season, Rusnak has been selected The Bellingham Herald’s All-Whatcom County Girls’ Track and Field Athlete of the Year. De Hoog, who guided the Lyncs to a team title, has been selected Coach of the Year.
While Rusnak left Cheney with a hefty state-medal haul, it wasn’t the dream of acquiring more glory or accolades that drove Rusnak this season.
De Hoog put it best when describing how competitive the sophomore is.
“She is a very cordial girl, but when she gets in the blocks and she is in her own space and silent, she is out big and hard,” De Hoog said. “Even at times we can’t talk her out of it almost. ‘It’s prelims, finals are tomorrow. You don’t have to win.’ She has one gear, and it’s all out.”
Rusnak wasn’t necessarily looking to beat the girl next to her, though. She wanted to defeat herself, beat her own best times.
“Really, I was just trying to improve myself,” Rusnak said. “Just getting my PRs and getting those personal records and just pushing myself, that is always something I really like doing.”
And Rusnak made personal records fall one after another.
Four times she eclipsed her best 100 meter time, finishing with a 12.43 PR. Twice she set new career bests in the 100 hurdles, finishing with a 14.55. But perhaps the most gratifying for Rusnak was being able to set a new personal record in the long jump, which game during the state meet finals.
Rusnak jumped 18-5 1/4 during her season-opening meet, setting a new standard for herself. All year she worked to beat the mark, and finally after two and half months the moment of triumph arrived during the season’s pinnacle moment.
Rusnak had just finished helping her 4x100 relay team qualify for the finals when she had to quickly head to the jumping area to perform her final few long jumps. The first jump back, still riding the momentum from the relay, she posted a title-clinching, personal-best mark of 18-8 1/4.
“I was just so happy because of the PR,” Rusnak said. “ Not because of the state title, but knowing I was able to get past my goal and beat my personal best record since my very first track meet.”
Rusnak’s state success is impressive in its own right, but what’s even more impressive is that she wasn’t 100 percent. She was battling through shin splints and some ankle troubles possibly due to the fact she’s reluctant to take workouts or races half speed when competing at the only speed she knows isn’t necessary.
Her drive should only propel her to more success during the ensuing two years, and to think she could be in better shape at year’s end should be a scary proposition to rest of her 1A state competition.
But true to Rusnak’s self-motivated form, she’s probably only concerned with setting more personal records. State titles are simply a by-product.
Athletes of the Year
For the 10th year, the Bellingham Herald is proud to celebrate Whatcom County high school student athletes with its All-Whatcom County teams. A look back at the athletes selected All-Whatcom County Girls’ Track and Field Athlete of the Year:
2006: Meghan Dahl, Ferndale
2007: Becca Friday, Bellingham
2008: Becca Friday, Bellingham
2009: Becca Friday, Bellingham
2010: Cherish Morrison, Blaine
2011: Zoe Moeller, Sehome
2012: Cherish Morrison, Blaine
2013: Gina Flint, Squalicum
2014: Alyssa Porter, Bellingham
2015: Hannah Rusnak, Lynden Christian
ATHLETE OF THE YEARHANNAH RUSNAK
School: Lynden Christian
Event: Sprints/hurdles/relays/long jump
What she did: Followed a brilliant freshman season with an even better sophomore year. ... Won a 100 hurdles state title with a winning time of 14.71 seconds. ... Won a long jump state title with a mark of 18 feet, 8 1/4 inches. ... Finished third in state in the 100 meters with a 12.90. ... Anchored LC’s state record 4x100 state title relay team that ran a 49.07. ... Logged 26 of LC’s 51 state points, helping team capture a state championship.